Life is sweet at home

Companionship – One Key to a Happy, Healthy Older Age

Marla and her mother enjoyed looking at family albums.

Marla and her mother enjoyed looking at family albums.

I was recently reading a blog that cited that every day for the next 16 years, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65. That’s an amazing statistic. And guess what? These “older adults” will eventually need medications, health care, nursing homes and hospice.

While lots of us will need those things, I liked how the article focused on what we know and experience every day at Andelcare. It focused on the fact that companionship is just as essential as medications, air or water to insure healthy aging.

Why is Companionship Important to Seniors?

Caregivers help with all sorts of needs.

Caregivers help with all sorts of needs.

In keeping with our experience and the Jewish Family & Career Services article, research shows that one of the most important aspects of staying healthy is social interaction — especially when one lives at home. Research also shows that is where nine out of 10 older adults today want to live.

We all recognize some of the changes that take place when we live at home but don’t drive or shouldn’t drive anymore or we don’t have many friends, who can get around either. Often as a result, as we age we become less and less independent and among the first things we give up are social events. It’s not so easy to have the girls over for bridge or we don’t feel well enough to do more than one chore every few days.

This loss of socialization can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, depression, loneliness, loss of interest in hobbies and isolation. We can begin to feel like there is no purpose for us to stay healthy and, of course, that results in physical complications.

Companionship Gives Us a Sense of Community

In her recent article in the Kirkland Reporter, Sandra Cook suggests there are many benefits to joining a senior or assisted living center:

• A sense of community: No matter what age, people enjoy feeling a part of a community. The sense of belonging can help a person feel connected and provide positivity among peers.

• Better physical health: Studies show that people who are regularly engaged in social activities are generally healthier. Being social helps boost positive feelings that alleviate stress, and as a result keep the body healthier longer.

• Lower rate and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s: Research studies show that individuals who are socially active and spend regular time with others have a lower rate of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions than those who remain alone and in isolation most days.

I appreciate Cook’s comment that companionship keeps the mind sharp, especially when humor and wit are introduced into conversation. I “second” her recommendation to read David Troxel’s book, “The Best Friend’s Approach,” which underscores the importance of companionship in memory care.

How to Bring Companionship Into Our Lives

For those who choose to “age in place” at home but cannot access local outside resources, we find that a companion caregiver is often just the right medicine. Instead of feeling lonely, the older individual has something and someone to look forward to.

A companion caregiver is someone with whom they can talk about current events, remember the past, enjoy a simple lunch, attend religious services or just walk around the neighborhood.

Why is companionship important to you? How do you bring more socializing into your life?