There’s no shortage of challenges seniors face when it comes to staying connected to the larger community. From diminished mobility and lack of transportation options to the inevitable loss of family and friends in their social circle, it can be difficult to maintain a strong base of human relationships and a wide sense of community. But these aspects of a senior’s life are critical to healthy aging and the capacity to thrive.
As we age, changes are happening in many different areas of our bodies, and the brain is no exception. Research tells us that certain parts of the brain shrink, particularly those critical to learning and other complex mental activities. Inflammation may increase in response to injury or disease, and communication between neurons in certain areas of the brain may not be as effective. These types of changes result in potential impacts on cognitive function, even for healthy seniors.
Get the award-winning guide and subscribe to our blog.
The housing market is booming. After a year of pandemic-style living, it seems homes are flying off real estate listings in a matter of hours—that’s if they even make it there at all. Mortgages reached historic lows, and the demand for housing is at an all-time high. In fact, the National Association of Realtors recently reported the median sales price of homes to be up over 17 percent since last year.
As people age, the relationships they forge and maintain with friends become more important than ever. Having people to connect with socially and personally isn’t just fun; it’s actually fundamental to promoting a healthy lifestyle throughout the aging process. And while certain transitions and circumstances at this stage of life can make creating and sustaining active friendships more challenging, there’s no denying that these special bonds are instrumental for seniors.
Over the last 30+ years, the field of interpersonal neurobiology has emerged as a framework for studying the effects of relationships on the human mind and body. It’s an area focused on the fundamental role of human connection in our lives. Whereas important aspects of physical and mental health, like diet and exercise, have long been recognized as leading contributors to a long and healthy life, many researchers, scientists, and medical professionals are now acknowledging interpersonal relationships as an undeniable influence on living and aging well.
At least 14 million Americans aged 65 and older live with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, this disorder involves difficulty processing sugars from food, which can lead to dangerous levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is particularly concerning for the senior population, who are at increased risk for specific complications.
Guilt, by any measure, is one of the most difficult feelings senior caregivers face when transitioning a loved one from home to a care facility. Family members who find themselves up against this decision do not typically go into it lightly, often laboring over the question of what’s best for the senior in their life. Many times, the move is dictated by unforeseen circumstances or newly emerged medical conditions that make it impractical to care for the loved one at home. Whatever the case, both the decision and the logistics of placement can leave a caregiver riddled with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
According to The State of Mental Health and Aging in America, an estimated 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders like depression, which is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults. Depression can result in personal distress and suffering, as well as impairments in physical, mental, and social functioning.
If you read our last blog article, The Secret to Health & Longevity That’s Too Important to Miss , you are familiar with the concept of “The Village Effect.” This metaphor for how human connection significantly impacts our minds and bodies points to the powerful link between socialization and lifespan. It’s an incredible concept supported by studies in social neuroscience, and it makes the case for just how important human connection is in the life of a senior.
It could be argued that no widespread experience has shed greater light on the universal need for face-to-face contact and personal connection than the global pandemic. Amidst this seismic threat to public health, people around the world have been rattled by overwhelming fear, stress and social isolation. For many, this reality has been accompanied by an unmistakable appreciation and longing for the kind of interaction that used to mark our everyday lives before the onset of COVID.
There are simply some factors impacting Alzheimer’s and its severity that are completely out of our control, including those like age and genetics. There are others, however, over which we have a great deal of influence, and one of the most prominent is nutrition. Advances in science and research have suggested that a person’s diet can have a significant impact on their ability to think and remember as they age.