Home > Senior Activities, Hobbies & Lifestyle > Seniors In Assisted Living Communities Have Great Opportunity For Friendship

Seniors In Assisted Living Communities Have Great Opportunity For Friendship

When poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was quoted as saying, “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere,” I doubt he was imagining the modern day Facebook phenomenon of literally having thousands of “virtual friends.” It is more likely he was romanticizing about the value of real friendships in our lives. Making friends can be costly, according to behavioral ecologists. While it might not be a very romantic view of friendship, making new friends involves an investment by committing time and energy to another person in the hope that they will provide reciprocal benefits in the future.

Dr. Will Reader of Sheffield Hallam University says online networks are somehow reducing the investment necessary to make new friends by lowering the perceived risk. His online survey, which forms the main part of his ongoing research, has revealed that face to face encounters are, not unsurprisingly, still the most important factor in close friendships. According to Dr. Reader, the importance placed on face to face encounters is a result of the necessity to base an investment on honest information. “The importance of honest signals is a fundamental concept in behavioral ecology. For example, the female songbird invests in a mate based on the quality of his voice, as this is an honest signal indicating the fitness of the bird. In the same way, people choose friends based on their ‘quality’, and this can only be assessed when there are honest signals being given,” says Dr. Reader.

James and Bea by *Dtellesen on deviantART

While using the computer to “network,” share written words, thoughts and photos can provide many tech savvy seniors the opportunity to stay in touch with not only “virtual friends,” family and the more traditional type of pals, it doesn’t seem to be enough. Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that people with strong social connections live longer than those without. Their studies suggest that social isolation is as much a risk factor for mortality as the more frequently cited reasons such as smoking and obesity.
The basic logic is that friends stimulate the brain and force people to get out and interact with others. Many times elderly people experience social isolation and loneliness as they age and when family and friend networks become smaller. Social contacts usually decrease after retirement and may continue to decline with the deaths of family members and friends and changes in residence following widowhood, mobility difficulties and ill health.

Social isolation is defined as being separated from one’s environment to the point of having few satisfying and rewarding relationships. Loneliness, on the other hand, is one’s feeling of dissatisfaction with social contacts in terms of quantity of contacts, quality of relationships or both.
Social isolation and loneliness have consistently been found to be associated with health. Declining physical health may lead to social isolation and associated feelings of loneliness. Perceived loneliness is one of the strongest predictors of health. Loneliness has also been found to be associated with diabetes, heart disease, ulcers, respiratory conditions, headache, low back pain and abdominal pain. Perceptions of intimate, personal relationships affect feelings of physical and emotional health. People who are not lonely may have a more positive view of their relationships, accept aging and its changes and therefore feel happier and healthier. Research has shown that people in poor health coupled with high anxiety tend to feel more isolated and lonely.

Other studies have shown that elderly people in declining health who feel socially isolated and lonely are more likely to move to a senior residence or an assisted living community. Such moves frequently increase their social participation and delay further health decline. A comment by Janice E. Brown, an end of life, hospice chaplain in Orange, CA, summarized the trials of aging most it eloquently when she said, “Sometimes death is not the most difficult. It is the ‘little dyings’ of aging that are the most difficult.” Residents of assisted living communities are considerably less likely to experience isolation and loneliness. Not only do the communities have planned activities and group centered, family style mealtimes, they also provide residents with a relaxed, worry free setting where they have the opportunity to develop genuine interest in others that result in intimate friendships. Ralph Waldo Emerson went one step further on the subject of friendship when he said, “A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Chicago and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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