Care for Older People: The Dangers of Loneliness

affordable home care private pay home care at home caregivers care for older people elder care in Minnesota Minneapolis St. Paul Non Medical senior citizen care home care companies in home help for seniorsConnecting well with friends and family can help people stay healthier, age well, and live longer. In 2010, Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported on a study that examined data from more than 309,000 people.  It was concluded that those without satisfying social ties are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely, comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

Going it alone is also linked to depression, higher blood pressure, and cognitive decline with age. Yet personal companionship is shown to:

  • Boost the immune system.
  • Improve cardiovascular health.
  • Release stress-reducing hormones.
  • Enhance nutrition and digestion.
  • Regulate the body’s blood sugar level.
  • Lift self-esteem.
  • Decrease the length of hospital stays.

Purposeful companionship can be particularly important for seniors.  Seniors who have lived a very active social life may find themselves increasingly lonely as they lose a spouse, close friends, cousins, and other aging family members.  It’s hard for many people to admit when they are lonely or are unable to make new friends, but they may acutely feel the depression of loneliness and exhibit health symptoms as noted in the study.

If you are taking care of elderly parents who may be lonely, help them to live a more socially fulfilled life.  For cultivating a more active companionship circle, consider suggesting the following:

  • affordable private pay home care in Minnesota In Home Care Minneapolis St. Paul Help for Senior Caregivers Senior Home Assistance at home caregivers eldercare at homeMentor someone. Thousands of people from young kids to senior citizens could benefit from coaching in reading and math to life skills and decision making.  Check with your local library to see what tutoring opportunities exist.  Become a Big Brother/Big Sister.  Nursing homes and adult day programs can also be great places for seniors to volunteer their time.
  • Join group activities. Community or local recreation centers offer enjoyable activities from museum and zoo tours to park picnics and sporting events.  Also check with the senior center in your area to learn about other opportunities.
  • Develop a solid rapport with grandchildren and younger adults. Learn about each other’s interests, enjoy fun activities together, and ask each other for help or advice.
  • Include friends and family in everyday routines. Need to run errands?  Invite along a companion.  Routinely walk?  Grab a partner.
  • Fall in love with a pet. Pet companionship improves the physical and mental well-being of older adults, even reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels and doctor visits.
  • Secure the services of a home care company. If your elderly parents are not able to safely leave their home alone or would not otherwise be able to participate in the social activities above, there are in-home senior care providers, including Right at Home, that can provide companionship services, such as socialization, cognitive stimulation, playing games, and letter writing.

While it’s fun to stay in touch online, remember that in-person companionship may well clear arteries, protect memory, and lengthen longevity.

Paul Blom, CEO

April 8, 2014

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