It’s not uncommon to let relationships decline throughout adulthood, but this unfortunate pattern of disengaging from relatives and friends can have a profoundly negative impact for both yourself and others. This is particularly true for adult children who lose touch with their aging parents, who may not have many other meaningful relationships in their lives. Though attention may be dedicated to securing safe housing and appropriate healthcare for older parents, it can be easy to allow the personal connection to slip away as years pass.
If you are concerned about the health of your elderly mom or dad, one of the best steps you can take is to pick up the phone, or—better yet—pay a visit in person. By reaching out to your parents, you can combat one of the most common and detrimental side effects of aging: Loneliness. Let’s get a closer look at how loneliness can impair the health of older adults and the ways in which forging stronger personal relationships can fight these effects.
Strong relationships can prevent cognitive decline
Depression and dementia are among the most frequently diagnosed mental illnesses among seniors, though both are preventable in many ways. Loneliness can be a strong contributor to both depression and dementia, because a lack of interpersonal relationships can limit how cognitively engaged an individual is, thus perpetuating negative feelings and further isolation. By having increased contact with their adult children, elderly parents may benefit from more stimulating conversations and increased positive emotional experiences. With these positive effects, parents may remain more independent throughout the aging process.
Loneliness is a predictor of longevity
Not only is loneliness a strong indicator of mental health risks, but it can be an accurate predictor of overall health. In a study conducted at University of California – San Francisco, it was shown that loneliness can predict lifespan. Individuals who had adequate companionship were likelier to live longer than their more isolated counterparts. In addition, it was found that 43% of adults over 60 felt isolated, which proves that we could all stand to call our parents more often.
Family bonds can benefit your health too
Nurturing family relationships is not a selfless act, as companionship can have benefits for individuals in all stages of life. Just as family interactions can curb the risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline in your elderly parents, they can have the same long-term benefits for you too. Plus, you can set a positive example for your own children so that they remember to call you as they grow into adulthood themselves.
Life can be hectic, and healthcare should not get in the way of the things that matter most. To keep your health on track while making more time for the ones you love, count on MeMD for online medical exams that are easy to fit into your schedule.