Would you rather live alone or with others? When I think about mom, before and after we moved in, there was a change in her. I’m not an expert on loneliness, but I do believe it affected her health greatly.
Before, mom was a bit hunched over, didn’t smile much and seemed a bit depressed, anxious and suspicious of everything and everyone. But after we moved in, her stature changed and she stood taller with her head up high again, enjoying her surroundings as she worked in the garden.
She became more animated in her conversations and smiled more often as she worked in the garden. Coincidently, that same week, I remember the Today Show doing a segment on communal living among the elderly. In short, they stay healthier and happier sharing a home together than living alone or at a nursing home.
Living alone deteriorates the brain so much faster. I can attest to that with the changes I saw in mom. It is better for their mental health to be surrounded by people most of their day than alone, watching TV in a room. Mom is definitely livelier since we moved in. Although she is living in the guest house, separated from us, we interact with her several times a day.
After moving in, we saw a happier cheerful mom/grandma. Even our kids noticed it. Just us being around her made all the difference. It wasn’t constant as she lived in her own seperate dwelling, but just seeing us every so often in the backyard or when we were leaving in the morning brought smiles to her face that I hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Here are some gripping statistics that I feel directly impacted mom’s health:
- The lack of social relationships is as much a risk factor for death as smoking or obesity.
- Loneliness can cause high blood pressure, increase the risk of depression, and cause a higher level of the stress hormone cortisol.
- People with few social connections or who feel lonely have 29% higher risk of heart disease and 32% higher risk of stroke.
- Lonely people have a faster cognitive decline than those who have more satisfying social connections
While I don’t have much medical proof that mom’s health suffered because she lived alone for so long, it is compelling to find that mom suffers from 3 out of the four symptoms listed above. Mom has high blood pressure, suffered a heart attack and although she’s not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, she is experiencing cognitive decline, which is her memory loss. Coincidence or cause? It’s a tough call, wouldn’tcha say?
We can’t deny that there is something to be said about socializing. Human interaction is a necessity. Although I love powering away at home on my blog, once I’m done, I celebrate my accomplishment by connecting with someone for lunch or cocktails. Certainly, I focus much better when I isolate myself, but I can’t do it for too long. I get cabin fever. So imagine what senior loneliness would feel like? Days or hours of no interaction can really affect their mindset. I saw it in mom. Loneliness had a strong impact on her health.