Studies show that socially active seniors are about 1.5 times as likely to remain free of disabilities, such as using the telephone, preparing meals and managing medications, or that involve mobility and strength activities, such as walking up and down a flight of stairs, walking a half mile and doing heavy housework.
Adding a home care companion to the mix can keep seniors in that socially active mode even though they may not be able to drive due to vision problems or other physical limitations.
Social Activity and Healthy Aging
“Social activity has long been recognized as an essential component of healthy aging, but now we have strong evidence that it is also related to better every day functioning and less disability in old age,” said Bryan James, PhD, lead researcher and postdoctoral fellow in the epidemiology of aging and dementia in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “The findings are exciting because social activity is potentially a risk factor that can be modified to help older adults avoid the burdens of disability.”
The Longevity Study
Most of us know from experience that having good friends can make our lives richer, but research now shows that our friends may also increase our longevity. The same isn’t true for our relatives.
In a 10-year longevity study of people aged 70 and older, researchers at the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia concluded that a network of good friends is more likely than close family relationships to increase longevity in older people. The research report is based on the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ALSA).
What the Longevity Study Found
Based on results from the study, researchers learned:
- Close relationships with children and relatives had little effect on longevity rates for older people during the 10-year study.
- People with extensive networks of good friends and confidantes outlived those with the fewest friends by 22 percent.
- The positive effects of friendships on longevity continued throughout the decade, regardless of other profound life changes such as the death of a spouse or other close family members.
Why Are Friendships So Powerful for Longevity?
While the study couldn’t say for certain why close friendships have such a dramatic effect on longevity, the authors of the report speculated that friends may encourage older people to take better care of themselves—by cutting down on smoking and drinking, for example, or seeking medical treatment earlier for symptoms that may indicate serious problems.
Friends may also help seniors get through difficult times in their lives, by offering coping mechanisms and having a positive effect on mood and self-esteem.
Could your aging parent use a little more social activity in their lives? If so, think about hiring a home care companion to get them out of the house and more involved with friends and groups in their local area.