Magazine article Work & Family Life

Older People Can Form Healthy New Bonds

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Older People Can Form Healthy New Bonds

Article excerpt

Nearly half of women over age 75 (and one out of four men) live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many have lost their spouse and/or friends they've known all their lives.

But a growing number of seniors have discovered that, even at advanced ages, new relationships can take root, and a growing tide of research suggests the importance of forming such new bonds.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have documented the toll of loneliness and social isolation on older people both physically and psychologically. They suffer higher mortality rates and increased risk of depression, cognitive decline and coronary artery disease.

Studies have also found connections between loneliness and higher blood pressure, nursing home admissions and unhealthy behaviors such as inactivity and smoking.

Other, more heartening, research has shown the importance of making new friends. For example, older people have benefitted from moving to retirement communities and nursing homes, the destinations many of them had hoped to avoid. Their new communities provide proximity, shared activities and a large new pool of prospective friends. …

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