So we are fortunate that new research now validates a key sales pitch used routinely to attract people to older adult communities. It is now fact: Socialization is healthy and can extend life expectancy.
Conversely, the social pain of loneliness produces changes in the body that mimic and essentially accelerate the aging process, according to a new study by Cornell University. The study specifically determined that loneliness increases the risk of heart disease and other health problems later in life. On a positive note, lead researcher Anthony Ong concluded, “One of the most important and life-affirming messages of this research is the reminder that we all desire and need meaningful social connections.”
Another new study by geriatricians at the University of California, San Francisco confirms that older adults who feel isolated and unhappy are twice as likely to have declining abilities to perform so-called activities of daily living; and 45 percent more likely to die than older adults who felt meaningfully connected to others.
(In my opinion) these findings, as is often the case with popular research, simply reinforce a commonly held belief. Still, they do offer older adults and their families impartial, factual information as they struggle to distinguish the benefits of community living versus aging-in-place.