The Family that Stays Together….Stays Well

The Family that Stays Together…Stays Well

Dthree-generations-of-menespite the growing number of older people in society – around the world – it struck me that how we treat our elders may directly impact upon their health.

How?

Family Ties that Bind – and Keep Us Healthy

A recent study conducted over 10 years looked at the social relationships and health of some 10,000 people over the age of 50, in order to understand the impact of family on the development of dementia.  

What they found was quite interesting – people with close bonds with their children were 17% LESS LIKELY to develop dementia, while those with unreliable or annoying(!) relatives had a 31% GREATER CHANCE of falling ill.

Treat Our Elders Well and They Will be Well

As I consider different cultures in different parts of the world, it strikes me that in places joined-hands-adults-and-childrenwhere elders are still held in high regard and treated with respect for their wisdom and knowledge, the incidence of dementia and physically debilitating disease is much lower — perhaps the Western model of always seeking the new and fresh has diminished our capacity for respecting that which (and those whom) have gone before.  A pity – such a wealth of knowledge being lost because few people have the time or inclination to tap into it! To say nothing of future generations who will re-invent the wheel simply because they do not listen to what others who have gone before have to say.

Helping Our Elders to Help Themselves

Studies have also found that walking in parks in towns and cities can also protect pensioners against mental decline by encouraging brain activity.  It was found that the change from urban to park enviroinments sparked excitement and positive brain activity. Fast or slow, we are meant to MOVE — we either use it or lose it, as the saying goes!elderly-couple-dancing

But there’s much that seniors can do to help themselves as well – studies indicate that the gentle movement of tai chi can help combat depression in the elderly — as well as maintain flexibility lost with age.  I’ll never forget watching an elderly Chinese man doing tai chi in the mornings at the South Street Seaport in New York on my way to work; the young man going through the exercises with him was not nearly as graceful or even flexible as the old man!

It doesn’t have to be tai chi – encourage your elders to garden, go dancing, join a choir – whatever it is, help them to find an activity they enjoy which will get them moving and interacting with others – the entire family will be better off for it!