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Aging & Loneliness

Preventing Illinois nursing home neglect is one thing–ensuring nursing home residents actually thrive as human beings is another. The Chicago nursing home lawyers are not naive enough to assume that all senior at long-term care facilities are living their best life so long as they are not neglected. Instead, preventing the abuse and mistreatment is merely a baseline. On top of that, facilities must help these individual live well. Helpfully, a range of new research efforts have emerged which seek to better explain the lifestyle challenges faced by local seniors in all situations. The information from that research should be used, where possible, to craft better living situations for all local elderly citizens.

One big theme hit upon time and again in these studies involves loneliness. A fascinating new study from research at Cornell, and published in Psychology and Aging, found that loneliness plays an important role in the aging process. More succinctly: Lonelier people age faster. Considered in that way, increasing meaningful social interaction is not only a way to improve the quality of one’s life but it also may prolong it. The full study can be found here.

Senior Housing News discussed the research effort earlier this summer. The study paints a unique picture, because it counsels, in some ways, toward increased use by seniors (and their families) of alternative living arrangements that increase the opportunity for social interaction At times that might mean leaving one’s home. It is often assumed that allowing a senior to stay in their own home is always preferable to alternative living arrangements. Yet, this research suggests that, in some cases, it might be better to consider senior centers or retirements commitments–so long as it means the difference between loneliness at home and interaction in the community.

Each Chicago nursing home lawyer at our firm appreciates that this is just one of many considerations. Obviously, there are other factors in a potential move that must also be considered. Aging in place at home may still be preferable. But, this new research should at least be considered as part of a comprehensive analysis of your family’s unique situation.

In any event, it is helpful to look at the full study. Researchers noted that loneliness produced bodily changes which actually mimic the aging process. This results in increased risks of heart disease. Interestingly the negative effects were seen both in seniors and young adults. However, the negative effects were more pronounced in the seniors. In addition, seniors were more likely to be lonely in general.

The researchers were quick to note that temporary pangs of loneliness needed to be distinguished from the chronic problem. Everyone experiences the temporary emotions from time to time in various settings. That is likely an unavoidable part of the human condition. But the chronic problem is the real concern. This refers to prolonged periods of loneliness which may manifest in real, harmful bodily changes. The lead author summarized that “one of the most important and life-affirming messages of this research is the reminder that we all desire and need meaningful social connections.”

See Our Related Blog Posts:

The Dangers of Unlicensed Senior Care Facilities

Minimizing the Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes