As seniors age, often the ones who are closest to them change. Maybe their friends have moved away to be closer to their grandchildren. Or their besties can’t get out and about anymore. Sadly as they age, many of their friends and close companions also start to pass away, leaving them lonely or depressed. Many times as they go about life, their interests or situations change, and the friends they once had aren’t as close anymore either. And as they get up there in age, it can often be harder to make new friends or even to be in situations where they can meet new friends. The one thing that doesn’t vary though is their family. Family is important throughout. Experts have shown how important family is for senior citizens, especially as they age. Many studies show that seniors with involved family members live longer than those without them.
A 2016 study published in the Washington Post says that it is in fact family, not friends, who help people to live longer. The study tracked senior citizens and their closest confidants. It showed that those with more family members who support them and love them were less likely to die. One of the study’s authors, James Iveniuk of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said he and his co-author were surprised by this.
“Because you can choose your friends, you might, therefore, expect that relationships with friends would be more important for mortality since you might be better able to customize your friend network to meet your specific needs,” he told the Washington Post. “But that account isn’t supported by the data. It is the people who in some sense you cannot choose, and who also have little choice about choosing you, who seem to provide the greatest benefit to longevity.”
Other studies have shown that having family members around and in a senior’s life can also help their mental health. It puts them in a better mood overall, because they know they have a family member who cares about them, who will advocate for them, and who will be there if needed.
Who does the day-to-day care for a senior didn’t matter in many of the studies. Whether they had a homecare worker helping them out 24/7, or their relatives did some of the caregiving as well, seniors were happier just knowing that they had family in their corner.
It is important for the health of seniors to continue to let them know they are important in your life. Make it a priority. Stay involved. See them as much as you can. Even if you can’t always be with them, there are ways to stay in touch. Seniors love to get hand-written letters in the mail. You also can call them, text them, or even Facetime them. If they don’t know how to Facetime or text, have them learn. Visiting Angels has a special social care service that can help seniors get online, email, and even Facetime. There is always a way for families to stay in the lives of their seniors.