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How Important is Social Interaction in Elderly Care?

What are the Benefits of Social Interaction for the Elderly?

No matter how old you are, we can all benefit from a bit of social interaction. Whether it’s a lunch date with friends, attending a community class or simply having a good catch-up over a cuppa, social interaction is beneficial for overall health. However, it is essential for older individuals, as loneliness is a growing concern amongst individuals over 75.

The NHS states, “Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation and it can have a serious effect on health.” Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to overcome loneliness through factors such as social interaction. Even if you live alone at home and find it challenging to go outdoors, there are ways of interacting with friends and family without leaving the comfort of your home. You can interact with others via video calls or simply invite them for tea.

Here are a few ways that social interaction can impact you positively.

Mental Health Improvements

Humans are social beings and are wired to build strong relationships with people. For many, this is what gets them by. Age UK states, “A wealth of evidence shows that positive relationships and shared activities contribute to our wellbeing.” So, this is probably the reason why speaking to a friend or close family member can automatically make you feel happier.

We understand that as we age, various life events can impact an individual’s lifestyle, such as bereavement, health issues and retirement. This is one of the many reasons for loneliness and can lead to anxiety and depression. However, video calling relatives, attending social classes and going for a coffee with some friends can make a meaningful impact on your life and create long-lasting relationships.

Physical Health Benefits

Social interaction helps promote brain health and a sense of purpose. People are less likely to become depressed and can potentially reduce the risk of mental conditions such as dementia. Age UK states, “Having close ties to friends and family and participating in meaningful social activities may help people maintain their thinking skills better in later life and slow down cognitive decline.”

Loneliness can also lead to sleep deprivation, poor heart health and a weakened immune system. Shot of Science emphasises “how experiences of social isolation influence the human brain and immune system to increase individuals’ risk for both inflammation-related health problems and viral infections.” So, interacting with others, exploring the outdoors and getting involved with community classes can all play a part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It isn’t always about what you eat; how you feel mentally can also impact your physical health.

Companionship

It is natural that as we age, we may find our companions pass on, but other forms of companionship are available, for example, carers. You don’t necessarily need to be living with a condition to receive elderly or live-in care. At Helping Hands, you can receive companionship care. Whether you need someone to chat with over a cuppa, assist you on holiday or a walking buddy, carers can genuinely make the best companions.

Pets can also make great companions. Caring for a dog, cat, rabbit or bird can do more than just provide company; it can boost your mood, decrease stress levels, provide comfort and reduce loneliness. They also offer unconditional love, which is valuable, especially in our older age. More importantly, they give you a sense of responsibility and belonging. Looking after a pet ultimately provides structure to your day. So, it’s no surprise that they say a dog is a man’s best friend.

Safety

Having someone look out for you and check in occasionally can make an individual feel safe and secure. Even if it’s just a 15-minute call over the phone or having someone come over for lunch, it can significantly impact your mental and physical health. By having such relationships, you can confide in others and vice versa. Confiding in others can give you a sense of support and trust, as you feel reassured knowing there are people you can reach out to when you need them.

Prevents Isolation

The most obvious benefit of social interaction is that it prevents loneliness. As older people are more at risk due to bereavement or living alone, social interaction will give them a sense of belonging and prevent them from feeling alone. Why not join a day centre? Day centres enable older people to participate in activities and socialise with people from all walks of life. Many go on to make lifelong friendships. Or invest in a smart device that allows you to see friends, family and even grandchildren via video calls. We understand that your family may not be close by; however, with the benefit of technology, you can connect with them instantly.

 

 


How Important is Social Interaction in Elderly Care?

At Helping Hands, we provide elderly care to help our customers live independently at home. With our carers, you don’t just gain support with household duties and running errands; social interaction plays a big part too. Our carers take the time to get to know you, your history, hobbies, likes and dislikes. They become like family, someone you can talk to about your day, share your interests and spend time with. Having that relationship with a carer can uplift your mental well-being and give you a sense of security.

Ultimately, “People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier, and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected” (Mental Health Foundation).


Page reviewed by Kerry Whittingham, Regional Clinical Lead on June 12, 2023