Healthy Relationships for Elderly Loved Ones
Friends are the family we choose, and for good reason. A recent dive into the effect healthy friendships have on elderly individuals shows that older adults with close, personal friendships typically rate their happiness and quality of life higher than those who do not have close friendships.
Friendships can become as valuable as familial relationships- or even surpass them.
Oftentimes, the family member of an aging individual, especially if they require more assistance and care, starts to evolve into the role of a caregiver for their loved one. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, it can lead to a greater sense of responsibility that weighs on the shoulders of the family member caring for the elderly loved one, and the loved one can often sense this and feel they are becoming a burden to their family members.
Due to this, elderly individuals may find more value in their friendships than their familial relationships as they grow older and require more assistance from their immediate family. Their friends, they will reason, are not spending time with them out of obligation, but instead actively seeking out their company. This can lead to an increase of happiness and feelings of belonging and companionship for these older adults.
While this certainly does not diminish the importance of strong family relationships, it does offer insight as to how friendships can have a great effect on the well-being and happiness of an aging individual.
Friendships can often lead to more social interactions and a newfound zest for life.
If your elderly loved one has the capability to go out with their friends, they are already engaging in more social interaction than they would if they did not have these friendships at their disposal. Physical exercise and fresh air is very good for maintaining your health, both physically and mentally, and so something as simple as a walk or bike ride with their friends will prove to increase their mood and promote a greater sense of fulfillment in their daily life.
While it may be more difficult to promote these sorts of social interactions in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not impossible. If you are a tech savvy loved one of an aging relative, teaching them how to use new technology such as Zoom or Skype can offer them the face-to-face social interaction that will increase their wellbeing, without putting their health at risk through traditional face-to-face meetings. Facebook has also become a platform dominated by the older crowd, and so signing your elderly loved one up for an account so they can keep in touch with friends from around the world will help them feel more connected during these difficult times.
No one likes to feel excluded, and this does not change with age. Promoting healthy friendships for your aging loved ones will ensure that they receive the social interaction and personable stimulation they need in order to make them feel valued and loved.