The Power of Friendship in the Elderly

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We all know that friendship is a wonderful thing in life.  But, did you know that multiple studies support the important role it plays in health and wellbeing as you age?

Friendship and socialization has been linked with enormous health benefits.  On the other hand, being lonely has been compared to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day because of its detriment to your health.  Even people facing serious health defects, who had a good network of friends, did well physically compared to others who lacked socialization. 

Friendship can even boost your immune system!  Good sleep and heart health are also facilitated by friendship.

Friendship has an added benefit in that people around you can help encourage you in healthy habits, such as exercise.

Having a close friend is powerful in fighting stress and depression, according to   Strength of social bonds even in other primates, has been seen to be a leading factor in longevity. 

In a study of almost 300,000 people, friends were found to be even more important than family in well-being and functioning.  Friendship is a powerful impetus for good in the sphere of both physical and mental health.  Strain in friendship has been found to lead to impaired health.  Feelings of loneliness, on the other hand, can increase with age.  It’s even said that the importance of friendship grows as you get older.

It is sometimes difficult for elderly people to make friends.  They are often not as able to get out and about, and sometimes face disabilities that place limits on them.  At the same time, it is well-known that reduced social contact is harmful.  However, this is often overlooked in circumstances when elderly people live alone at home.  Physical contact is so important.  If you have a loved one who struggles with loneliness, remember the importance of physical contact.  Outings are also helpful in lifting mood.  Prolonged solitude can be detrimental.

Friends provide support that even family members may not be able to give.  They may be going through a similar difficulty, dealing with there age-related limitations.  They can relate with you in a special way, unlike adult children who have not yet gone through the aging process as you are.  Additionally, an older person can gain from wisdom and insight a friend in their own peer group can offer.

It has been found that friendships are more effective in wellbeing among the elderly even than close family!  For one thing, younger family members are often busy with their own lives and have limited time to devote to an aging parent or relative.