Seniors Living Longer: The Importance of Family
The importance of having a close connection with family members may seem obvious, but new studies show that, for seniors, it can mean the difference between life and death. Add in genetic factors and family plays a more important role in the lifespan of a senior than once was thought.
Friends and Family: Which Are More Important For Seniors?
While it is certainly a good thing to have a strong social network as an older adult, if it is made up solely of friends, it seems it won’t have a real impact on longevity. A new study titled “Social Relationships and Mortality in Older Adulthood” shows that close family connections have a direct impact on decreasing the likelihood of death, but friendships do not. Findings from this study were presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
Certainly, having friends can make one’s life more pleasant, but there is no substitute for strong family connections. In fact, according to the study, those seniors that felt they had an extremely close relationship with family members beyond their spouses, had a 6% chance of dying within the next five years compared to a 14% chance by those that did not feel close to family members.
There were four factors that seemed to play an important role in the reduced mortality rate, as well. These were the size of the network of family members, being married as opposed to being single or widowed, the amount of participation in social organizations, and the level of closeness the senior felt to the people in their life.
The Role of Family Genetics in Lifespan
The family members of an older adult impact their lifespan in another way and that’s through genetics. While it is true that lifestyle and the environment certainly plays a part in a person longevity, a new study by Paola Sebastiani at Boston University School of Public Health and Thomas Perls at Boston University School of Medicine shows that a person’s genetics plays an important role, as well.
Genetics do seem to help determine whether or not a senior will live beyond the average life span of eighty years. The right genetics can protect an older adult from certain common illnesses such as dementia, cancer, and heart disease. In fact, this study shows that a person’s genetics are up to thirty percent of what will determine whether or not they will live to the age of eighty-five. The other seventy percent is their environment and lifestyle choices.
Lifestyle Choices and Longer Life
Lifestyle choices do make a difference when it comes to seniors living longer. In fact, they play a major role. Lifestyle choices include what you eat and whether or not you smoke and drink. Exercise also plays a role. One study of Seventh-Day Adventists backs up this idea.
This church promotes healthy living and aging well. That includes no smoking, no drinking and eating a healthy diet and engaging in exercise. One study showed that Seventh-Day Adventists lived an average of eight years longer than the typical American.
In the end, these studies show that if you want to keep your older loved one around as long as possible, stay connected and be sure they are living in an environment that promotes health and healthy living.
Does your family have a history of longevity? Can you attribute it to good genes or good relationships within your family? Let us know more in the comments below!