Friends with Benefits

Keeping Active Social Relations Can Reduce the Risk of Dementia by 70 Percent!

In the home care industry, we see on a daily basis how increased activity and socialization among our senior clients can improve their well-being.  In one instance, an older couple who was thinking of moving to a senior community found new energy and vigor with the right caregiver helping them out.  As a result, they decided to postpone their move, because their desire was to age in their home as long as possible.

Screen Shot 2012-11-14 at 6.48.10 AMIt’s wonderful when you come across research that backs up your anecdotal evidence!  A study conducted by the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago described in provides evidence that vibrant social interaction can help seniors reduce — by as much as 70 percent — their rate of mental decline, as compared with peers who did not have such interaction.

The research followed more than one thousand seniors, with an average age of 80, for an average of five years.   Some participants were studied for as many as 14 years.   At the onset of the study, none of the elders had dementia.  Given the length of the research period, scientists were able to conclude if the lack of socialization led to dementia or if dementia gave rise to reduced social interaction.

To gauge social interaction, the elders were scored with a point system on their level of activity in such things as visits with friends and relatives, participation in sports, bingo and the like and membership in community groups like the Rotary Club.

The scientists found that for every point drop in social activity, there was a worsening of cognitive ability of nearly 50 percent.

Further validating these findings, prior studies referred to in the Time article found that extreme social isolation can be as deadly as smoking… it can double your risk of early death!  These additional studies found that people who have better quality personal relationships are at lower risk for many diseases, including coronary  disease and stroke.

The good news is that having a strong network of friends may lower the risk of premature death even more than exercising or avoiding obesity!  So if yo are in the mood for a burger and fries, just go have them with a good friend.