A new study conducted by researchers at Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco reveals that loneliness plays a big role in the decline so often associated with old age. The study involved 1,600 adults with an average age of 71 and it shows that the the lonely consistently leads to higher mortality rates. 23% of the subjects died within six years of the study and only 14% of those who lived surrounded by the loved ones.
So inviting Grandma over for dinner will help her to extend her life and the quality of her life, reveals the study. “The need we’ve had our entire lives — people who know us, value us, who bring us joy — that never goes away,” declared Barbara Moscowitz, a senior geriatric social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Laura Carstensen, a Stanford University psychologist, developed a theory named “socioemotional selectivity,” and she indicates that: As people sense their remaining time growing brief, they shed superficial relationships to concentrate on those they find most meaningful.
“They’re pretty tolerant of friends’ imperfections and idiosyncrasies, more than young adults. You bring a lot more experience to your friendships when you’re older. You know what’s worth fighting about and not worth fighting about,” said Rosemary Blieszner, professor of human development at Virginia Tech.
According to the study, it’s necessary to interact and communicate often with our older relatives and invite them into our homes, in order to keep them happy and alive. As Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center declares, our old parents are tending to “optimize friendships.” “They invest more in their remaining connections,” adding, “They optimize friendships, rather than try to maximize them,” he says.
Loneliness and social isolation have a great impact on elders, both psychologically and physically. According to Census Bureau, 25% of men over the age of 75 are living alone. The women’s percentage is 46%.
“For a host of reasons, no one is addressing the individual’s daily needs — food, medication, medical appointments. The refrigerator is empty, but there’s no one to call. People suffer despair, humiliation,” explains Barbara Moscowitz. Living isolated and having a disconnected life increases the risk of depression, cognitive decline and illnesses.
This study clearly shows that a close relationship with our elder relatives could higher their lives. So we should pay more attention to this matter. Spending quality time with our parents as they get old will definitely help them and us equal.