Make New Friends But Keep the Old

One is silver and the other gold

The old Girl Scout song may be more true than you knew as recent research has shown that a variety of social isolation elements may “pose health risks, including living alone, having a small social network, infrequent participation in social activities, and feelings of loneliness” for adults, particularly older adults.

Luckily, there are some simple solutions that may have immediate health benefits, such as spending time with family and friends as well as making new friends. A New York Times headline event went so far as to claim, “Study Shows The More You Hang Out With Your Mom, The Longer She’ll Live – Make sure you call grandma over for dinner tonight.”

According to the NYT article, University of California, San Francisco researchers discovered that loneliness is a factor in the decline that often associated with old age. Controlling for socioeconomic status and health, the study followed 1,600 adults (with an average age of 71) and found the lonely consistently had higher mortality rates. In fact, “nearly 23 percent of lonely participants died within six years of the study, as opposed to only 14 percent of those that reported adequate companionship.”

The need to have people who know and value us never goes away and as we age, we tend to be more tolerant of our friends’ imperfections and idiosyncrasies. The rashness of a hotheaded youth often mellows as the years go by, bringing awareness of what’s worth fighting (or not) over. That patience and experience may carry over when spending quality time with their grandchildren, though the symbiotic relationship benefits everyone. The parents can take a bit of a break from the daily demands from their kids, the grandparents receive companionship, conversation and a sense of value, while the children can to learn about their family history, hear stories and share secrets while everyone feels the love. If you live close enough to visit your aging parents or relatives regularly, so much the better for everyone.

But, if you don’t live near your parents or if they are no longer able to live independently, there are still options. Encourage your elderly loved ones to reach out to older friends or make new ones. Help them form new relationships within an independent or assisted living facility if that is where they are currently residing. Despite popular beliefs, these types of living arrangements can provide more than physical assistance; they offer new ways to mingle and to connect, combating loneliness and possibly prolonging life.

If the time has come when your aging loved one is no longer able to live independently, please contact the knowledgeable staff at ElderLink. We will help you find elder care services or an assisted living facility within California that is personalized for your family.