Human connections are one of the most important factors in our mental health and overall well-being. A 1944 study on babies found that despite fulfillment of all of their physical needs, babies died without human contact and attention. This need for connection never fades as we grow older. Unfortunately, many elderly people become too sick or old to take care of themselves and end up lonely in nursing homes. This often leads to extreme loneliness that can take its toll on the health of a senior citizen.
One study found in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal by Archana, and Nishi Misra, suggests elderly people were found to be at a much higher risk of depression if they were lonely. Adults ages 85+ have the highest suicide rate of all adults (The Suicide Prevention Resource Center).
What could the solution be? A Berkley study describes it as “social capital,” with benefits in longevity, and a decline in depression, and disease.
But this is more easily explained through this video of Humanitas, a unique Dutch retirement home that offers free rent to millennial age residents in return for socialization with their elderly flatmates.
“I think that the students influence the whole tone of the conversation here so that it’s not only about death, sickness and old age, but also about youth, about parties, about girlfriends.” CEO Gea Sijpkes
Jordi Pronk, an artist and resident from the Netherlands, can be seen carting around his 93 year old flatmate. “What’s quite funny is that there are quite a lot of old women living here and they sometimes like to flirt with a young guy. You pass by and they whistle or wink at you.”
“You would think an old people’s home would be old and dusty, but I think it’s just like a high school. Every table has a particular group that always sits there…the nerdy table…the pretty girls…the tough guys…” Jurrien Mentink
It’s safe to say that many of the elderly people living in care homes helped create the society we enjoy today. No one deserves to be forgotten, but the sad truth is that some people are. Something as simple as a pleasant conversation over coffee can make a senior’s day. Human connection is the basis of a thriving life, therefore fostering that is the least we can do for our elders. You’re sure to get something out of the experience as well.
Enrich a senior citizen's life (and yours) by adopting-a-grandparent! Many local retirement homes and convalescent hospitals welcome guests as they know it lifts the spirits of their patrons and brightens the mood of the facility.
Possible Activities to do with your Adopt-A-Grandparent:
• Photo Sharing: share some of your favorite photos with them, and invite them to tell you about theirs
• Story Telling: this is a great way to learn about what their life was like before you met them - storytelling is also great for memory and brings back good times!
• Special Event: work with the retirement home or group and arrange a special event for the seniors. Maybe a dance, a casual dinner, or in-house movie from their younger years
• Community Involvement: if your adopted grandparent likes going out, go with them to the park or volunteer with them in the community
• Errands: take your adopted grandparent on the errands they need to run (to the mall, pharmacy, or grocery store)