Monday, July 22, 2024

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Friendships Keep Seniors Going Strong

As we age, the importance of meaningful connections and friendships becomes increasingly vital to our overall well-being. In her insightful article, “Friendships Keep Seniors Going Strong,” Nicole Weaver explores how social relationships significantly impact the physical and mental health of older adults. Weaver delves into the numerous benefits that friendships offer seniors, including reducing feelings of loneliness, boosting emotional health, and even enhancing cognitive function. She also highlights practical ways for seniors to cultivate and maintain these valuable connections, whether through community activities, volunteer opportunities, or simply staying in touch with old friends. Sharing this article is essential because it underscores the powerful role that friendships play in keeping seniors vibrant, engaged, and healthy. By fostering strong social ties, seniors can enjoy a more fulfilling and active lifestyle well into their golden years.

Contributed by Nicole Weaver

The support of good friends is a more significant factor in determining longevity than close family ties, suggests research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The research team drew on data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging (ALSA), which began in 1992 in Adelaide, South Australia. Its aim was to assess how economic, social, behavioral and environmental factors affected the health and well-being of people aged 70 and over.

Friends Improve Survival Rates

Almost 1,500 people were asked how much personal and phone contact they had with their various social networks, including children, relatives, friends and confidants.

Survival was monitored over 10 years. The group was monitored annually for the first four years of the study and then at approximately three yearly intervals.

The research team also considered the impact of other factors likely to influence survival rates, such as socioeconomic status, health and lifestyle.

Close contact with relatives, including children, had little impact on survival rates over the 10 years. But a strong network of friends and confidants significantly improved the chances of survival over that period.

Opposite of Stress?

Those with the strongest network of friends and confidants lived longer than those with the fewest friends/confidants.

The beneficial effects on survival persisted across the decade, irrespective of other profound changes in individuals’ lives, including the death of a spouse or close family members, and the relocation of friends to other parts of the country.

The authors speculate that friends may influence health behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, or seeking medical help for troubling symptoms. Friends also may have important effects on mood, self esteem and coping mechanisms in times of difficulty.

Feeling connected to others may provide meaning and purpose that is essential not only to the human condition, but also to longevity. It may result in a positive physiological effect on the body in the same way that stress confers a negative effect, an accompanying editorial suggests. 

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