Social Connectedness Has a Positive Effect on Physical and Mental Health
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
My father is living in a retirement center and stays in his room by himself most of the time.
He and my mother were divorced several years ago so he has no one living with him. He admits that he is lonesome and bored, and the staff has encouraged him to make some friends and not isolate himself as he is doing now.
Prior to coming to the retirement center, when he was living in his home by himself, he was always very gregarious and had many friends.
Many of the other residents and my father seem to be like minded and very nice.
Can you please make some suggestions that may help my father become more sociable?
— A daughter who needs your help
Friendships can be viewed as relationships between people who share similar interests and values, common concerns or experiences, have compatible personalities, or a shared situation.
Friendship can bring a person emotional support, tangible help when needed, opinions and suggestions when asked for, and a healthy way to make life go much more smoothly each day.
Lack of companionship often necessitates people to seek friendship for the human contact that they need.
Choose your friends
Even a close relationship with adult children does not replace the need for shared time with someone nearer the age of the adult parent or a person who may have experienced a similar pattern in life.
As someone once said, “you acquire relatives, but you get to choose your friends.” The quality of the friendship seems to be more important than the number of friends that a person has.
Social connectedness has a positive effect on physical and mental health. People who remain actively engaged in life and connected to those around them are generally happier, in better physical and mental health and more empowered to cope with change and life transitions.
Studies have shown that just one friendship can help relieve the depression and loneliness that people often feel when they move from their home to another environment.
Most retirement centers provide opportunities for establishing new relationships through classes in arts and crafts, game times, adult education lectures and a variety of other entertaining programs.
Gently encourage your father to look at the information in this column, and perhaps he will see the benefits of developing some new friends that will help him alleviate loneliness and boredom.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2012