This is a great way to “lure” younger adults to engage with seniors. It’s potentially a bit gimmicky, but the rewards of giving back to your community, and the enrichment of people of both ages, is just phenomenal.
A nursing home in the Netherlands allows university students to live rent-free alongside the elderly residents, as part of a project aimed at warding off the negative effects of aging.
In exchange for small, rent-free apartments, the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, Netherlands, requires students to spend at least 30 hours per month acting as “good neighbors,” Humanitas head Gea Sijpkes said in an email to PBS NewsHour.
Officials at the nursing home say students do a variety of activities with the older residents, including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and, perhaps most importantly, offer company when seniors fall ill, which helps stave off feelings of disconnectedness.
Both social isolation and loneliness in older men and women are associated with increased mortality, according to a 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
“The students bring the outside world in, there is lots of warmth in the contact,” Sijpkes said.
One study found that 50 year olds with a negative outlook on life lived seven years shorter than those with a positive outlook.
What’s interesting is that more than avoiding stress it seems more important to have the ability to bounce back from it. So healthy coping mechanisms for handling stress, as well as a good attitude about life, seems to be more important than nutrition and exercise.
My grandma and I had a pact that we’d both do our best to live to be 100. She died at 85 after a long, happy life, married to her best friend since 1st grade. Go Mommo! But I’m still in the running, so I’m always interested in how Centenarians live it up. And it seems to boil down to two things: luck, and keeping a good attitude about life.
Israeli physician Nir Barzilai and his staff at the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have asked hundreds of centenarians hundreds of questions, including details of their living circumstances, nutrition, alcohol consumption, smoking, physical activity, sleep, education, status, and spirituality — all in the hope of finding commonalities.
The results are sobering: “There is no pattern,” says Barzilai, 54. “The usual recommendations for a healthy life — not smoking, not drinking, plenty of exercise, a well-balanced diet, keeping your weight down — they apply to us average people, but not to them. Centenarians are in a class of their own.” He pulls spreadsheets out of a drawer, adjusts his glasses, and reads aloud: “At the age of 70, a total of 37 percent of our subjects were, according to their own statements, overweight; 37 percent were smokers, on average for 31 years; 44 percent said that they exercised only moderately; 20 percent never exercised.”
The women in my family tend to live a long time, although I don’t think anyone has made it to 100 yet. What is your family’s pattern for longevity? Were people healthy right before they died, or did they linger with illness?
If I DID want to make friends, though, apparently learning magic tricks is just as effective as taking sociability courses, and sounds much more entertaining. It helped kids in the U.K., and that’s even with their parents being scaredy-parents and not trusting their kids (okay, the article is U.S. parents, but you get the idea).
If I wanted to cheer myself up, I would react differently to happy events depending on how old I am. Or I could just go dig in the dirt; they say it’s like prozac. In fact, I think I’ll go do that right now.