Advice from centenarians: Community leads to longevity
Almost 80 percent of Holiday’s resident centenarians polled feel that living in an independent senior living community had contributed to their longevity either somewhat or a great deal, which is consistent with several recent studies on the topic of communal living and successful aging. The high percentage of seniors who value friendship and community is comforting, but not overly surprising. Here are two major findings from psychological studies on the impact on socialization on longevity:
Loneliness: It is bad for you.
A 2010 PLOS Medicine study found a correlation between a person’s survival rate and her or his belonging to a wide social group of friends, neighbors, or relatives, according to an article in the Guardian.1 “Being lonely and isolated was as bad for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic,” Ian Sample, the paper’s science correspondent reported. “It was as harmful as not exercising and twice as bad for the health as being obese.” And last February, Sample filed another Guardian story; this time on a study that found that loneliness was twice as unhealthy for older people as obesity was.2
Laughter may really be the best medicine
In a study focused particularly on centenarians, researchers at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology found that one of several traits, what they called “personality genes”, which were common in the 243 centenarians studied was extroversion. One author of the study noted his surprise that being “mean and ornery” did not seem to be as much of a longevity factor than was the fact that the studied centenarians “considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network.”3 Having a robust social network has also been seen to help boost immune systems in older adults and prevent illness.4
In the coming years, it will be quite telling to track the degree to which centenarians continue to find benefits in communal living, particularly if the centenarian community continues to grow as projected.
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1 The Guardian. (2010, July 27) “With a little help from your friends you can live longer.” Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/27/friendship-relationships-good-health-study
2 The Guardian. (2014, February 16) “Loneliness twice as unhealthy as obesity for older people, study finds.” Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/feb/16/ loneliness-twice-as-unhealthy-as-obesity-older-people
3 “Personality genes’ may help account for longevity.” (2012, May 24) Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/aeco-gm052412.php
4 Health Encyclopedia, University of Rochester Medical Center. “Older Adults and the Importance of Social Interaction.” Retrieved from http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4513