A recent Cornell study published in Psychology and Aging points to loneliness speeding up the aging process, according to Senior Housing News. Seniors, who choose to stay in the familiar setting of their own residence, should take a second look at moving into a retirement community where the health benefits of social interaction may outweigh that of saving money.
“The social pain of loneliness produces changes in the body that mimic the aging process and increase the risk of heart disease, according to the study, and while heart functions change as a normal aspect of aging, loneliness accelerates the process.”
I see the toll of loneliness in my own parent’s health. They have become reclusive and in doing so, their health seems to have rapidly declined. Within the last four months, my father who prided himself on standing tall and rarely used a cane, has become stooped over and now cannot walk without aid. My mom has become increasingly obsessed with the small annoyances that come with daily living and each becomes a huge, nearly life threatening disaster which she broods about for days. While I visit them twice a week, they obviously need interaction outside of the family.
According to Dr. Dawn Marcus, “researchers in Australia followed senior citizens for 10 years. In people 70 years old and older, the risk of dying decreased by 20 percent when people had a strong network of friends.”
Encouraging seniors to talk to friends and neighbors is crucial, for both good mental and physical health. Moving into a living situation with social activities may far outweigh other perceived benefits and contribute to a longer, healthier and much more fulfilling life. How can I talk my parents into understanding the benefits of social interaction, while lessening the burden on me???