Connecting well with friends and family can help you stay healthier, age well and live longer. The U.S. Harvard Women's Health Watch in 2010 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.
For cultivating a more active companionship circle, consider the following:
- Mentor someone. Thousands of people from young kids to older adults could benefit from coaching in reading and math to life skills and decision making.
- Join group activities. Community clubs or local recreation centres offer enjoyable activities from museum and zoo tours to sporting events and park picnics.
- 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.
For those who cannot be present as a caregiver or regular companion to elderly loved ones, Right at Home provides companionship services, such as socialisation, cognitive stimulation, playing games and letter writing.
While it is fun to stay in touch online, remember that in-person companionship may well clear your arteries, protect your memory and lengthen your longevity.
How can your elderly loved ones develop and maintain stronger social connections?