The Journals of Gerontology released a study in 2012 that examimed those over the age of 65 living with multiple chronic conditions. What they found is that those with a purpose in life and positive relations with others had lower levels of inflamation and therefore, better health outcomes. Mutual support groups provide a safe environment for group participants to develop meaningful friendships. Many societies in the community have provided mutual support groups for a long time (e.g. the Cancer Society). So why are there no mutual support groups within the long term care system? The authors of the above article stress that successful aging is not the absence of illness but rather…”the ability to remain engaged even in the face of age-related disease” and go on to state “….the experience of positive affect, purposeful life engagement and robust social ties may contribute to better health outcomes”.
Somehow, this is not news – on a practical level we already know this. So why is this study important? It is further evidence that there is a solution to the social crisis that exists in all of our communities – the epidemic of loneliness and depression. Furthermore, it supports our mission to bring the mental health needs to the forefront of the aging policy agenda. The need to invest resources into building positive relationships within our health care system, thus reducing the trememdous costs associated with loneliness and depression. Don’t get me started! Read more about the article here: http://psychsocgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/02/29/geronb.gbr152.abstract