Sociability and Ageing

Sociability and Ageing

Sociability is the human tendency to seek out companionship, social relationships and friendship. It is the human urge to engage in a close-knit union with other humans, devoid of material advantages. Such connections lead to sentimental and cognitive reassurance dispelling loneliness in the lives of elders.

With the loss of a spouse, close friends and relatives, elders who are fortunate to bond with others in similar situations tend to share their emotional hurdles and be supportive towards each other. Realizing that one is not alone in their anguish and sharing experiences, helps to lessen the impact of painful circumstances.

The Ageing Process

Ageing is an inevitable aspect of the lifecycle. With progression, as years add on to life, it reaches a stage where the individual reflects back on past attainment and feels the onset of the closing period in his/her lifespan. This acceptance is not easy, nor is the many facets of ageing, as it requires flexibility and advanced coping skills. Also, the absence of disease in old age cannot be defined as ‘health’ for this demographic. It is controversial, as ‘health’ in the elderly is multifaceted, spanning cognitive, emotional, social and physical well-being.

The management of pain, loss of mobility and independence, dependency for the completion of ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) impact the assessment of health. Research shows that psychological and sociological factors influence the ageing process and the ability to age successfully has a correlation to the elders’ religious beliefs, social relationships, self- esteem, perception of own health, self elf icacy, socioeconomic status, coping skills and other factors.

Depression And Ageing

Depression occurring in early lite stems from genetic factors, life experiences and circumstances beyond our control, whereas depression that first develops in later life is linked to physical health and loneliness. The common belief that old people suffer from depression and age alone, is the major causal factor is an anomaly. Many a times, difficulties and experiences related to early childhood and youth emerge as causal links to social, physical and psychological disorders leading to depression while ageing.

Studies indicate that the oldest of the old, maybe better at coping with depression. An elderly person with sound health has a relatively lesser risk of depression than those suffering from chronic disease. This is understandable, as chronic pain, the side effects of medication and the psychological consequences of living with the disease with its inevitable restrictions on lifestyle and socialization, result in loneliness and isolation leading to depression.

Psychological Well-Being

An increase in depressive symptoms with age are common, impacting the well-being and quality of life of the elderly. These depressive symptoms are pointers to the aberrations in psychological well-being, functional health and impact longevity. Cognitive decline (Speck et al 1995), difficulty in carrying out activities of daily living and increased risk of mortality, (Bruce 1994) are attributed to depressive symptoms.

The ability to age successfully has a correlation to the elders’ religious beliefs, social relationships, self-esteem, perception of own health, self-efficacy, socioeconomic status, coping skills and other factors

Feeling of loneliness is subjective in nature, relating to individual expectations from social relations. Loneliness may be due to external factors attributed to society and customs or internal, like individual personality and psychology. Whatever the cause, loneliness leads to serious health related consequences. It is also a major cause for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Loneliness And Anxiety

Loneliness while ageing could be attributed to migration or lessened connections with one’s culture, losing friends and family to death, social disengagement after leaving work, loss of friends and family members due to relocation and inability to participate in the local community activities. All this is due to less of socializing which leads to anxiety, withdrawal, lack of motivation and sadness which disguise the symptoms of loneliness.

Forging New Relationships And Bonds

Mere social interaction as a means of alleviating loneliness is not the answer. Deep down, it involves an internal control on the type of interaction and elders tend to be very choosyl Most family relations tend to be obligatory, whereas striking friendship is a matter of choice, hence for many elderly, the time spent with family may be less enjoyable than a visit to a neighbour or someone of their age group.

Experts point out that elderly people forge a bond with people of the same age group and those with similar thought processes. Thus, with increasing age, it is possible that people tend to lose their friendship circle and find initiating new friendships, intimidating.

However, healthy people with greater material and intellectual aid are able to harness more social capital Inured to be able to seek and forge new relationships like volunteering, giving back to society, mentoring the inexperienced, finding companions to pursue new hobbies – all these activities add to well-being as one ages.

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