Don’t we all wish there was a magic pill for what ails us at any particular time. Something that didn’t have negative side effects, we didn’t have to remember to take 3 times a day and that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to get.
A pill that could lower our blood pressure, boost our immune system, relieve depression, manage our pain and keep our memory in good shape. Now that would be a worthy medication, wouldn’t it?
For seniors, that prescription is socialization!
We humans are wired to depend on and crave, at some level, interaction with other humans. Historically, being with others was the only way to survive and thrive. But while we may have left behind some of the environmental challenges that were faced long ago, when the group had to hunt and forage for food and avoid dangerous animals, we still have the ingrained need for others.
Seniors are not exempt from this need but often find themselves in situations where their social circles are shrinking for a variety of reasons. Others around them may be dying. They may be limited in the ability to get out and about by medical complications. Maybe they are unable to drive anymore. Caregiving responsibilities for another may take all of their time and energy. The life of a senior can become, socially, very small.
And while many have suspected that socialization plays a role in maintaining health and quality of life in the elderly, resent studies are now quantifying this theory and pinpointing the mechanisms behind the protective properties of human interaction!
There are studies that have confirmed the positive impact that socialization has on: the immune system, blood pressure, brain health and memory, physical activity, depression, pain, nutrition and relationships.
So helping the senior in your life develop and maintain positive human interactions may do more for them than you realize.
I think of my mother who was caring for my father during the earlier stages of his dementia and physical decline. Things had gotten to the point where she could not leave him for very long and the physical demands of his care were overwhelming her. The mental and emotional toll was becoming pretty high as well.
Fast forward through several transitions….. Mom has been settled into an independent living apartment in a Continuing Care Retirement Community for about 8 months. And though my father passed away a couple of months ago, Mom is doing well. She sees and greets others throughout her daily routine now. She has meals with others. She attends classes with others.
And we can all see the up-side for her. She is more content than she has been in years. Her life has once again expanded.
While socialization may not be the magic pill that gets a senior off of all of their medications, the proven benefits certainly make it worth the effort!
How might you help an aging loved one in your life reap these benefits?
On the journey with you…….Kathy
Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent. She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.