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How to cultivate family life in older age

11th December 2018

In later life, it can seem like a struggle to maintain healthy family relationships whilst keeping one’s own best interests at heart. Children and grandchildren continue to grow and blossom and every visit there is so much to keep up with. This article looks at how to cultivate a positive family life in older age, with great tips and advice.

“Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day”

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, Executive Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, shared the inspiration behind starting the campaign: “The Campaign to End Loneliness began in 2011 to respond to the growing problem of loneliness. At the time, loneliness was understood as something that affected a few older people at Christmas – not a devastating, widespread issue affecting millions of people with serious health impacts.”

Laura then explained why maintaining a positive family life is so important in later life: “Positive relationships and connections are vital for good health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It can contribute to depression and anxiety and can increase mortality by almost a third. A positive family life, and staying connected with your relatives, contribute to good health and wellbeing as we age.”

“For those fortunate to have a family around them it makes such a difference knowing someone is looking out for you and cares”

Mike Niles the chair of b:friend, a befriending organisation that aims to bring people together and create connections, explained the inspiration being the charity: “After visiting an older neighbour through another befriending charity, I returned to my home-town of Doncaster and found there was nothing supporting the older population. We set about bringing members of the community together to support the people among us that unfortunately have no one. Just a cuppa and a chat, once a week, makes such a huge difference for someone that spends so much time without seeing or speaking to anyone.”

Mike then explained why he believed having good, positive human connections in later life is so beneficial to someone’s state of mind: “We all want to feel loved and valued - it's human a desire not specific to a certain age group. For older people, they often lose connections with family and friends and it's for us, members of the community, to ensure these people still have local connections and support to not become socially isolated. For those fortunate to have a family around them it makes such a difference knowing someone is looking out for you and cares. b:friend aims to support those that are not so fortunate by bringing volunteer befrienders together with isolated older neighbours to make sure they know they are still loved and valued.”

Stay in the loop

The first thing that can sometimes be underappreciated is simply knowing what is going on with family members. Remember family updates and be sure to talk to people about what’s going on in their lives. This is a great way to know only show you care, but a good reason to stay in regular contact with loved ones. Keeping up to date on what’s going on in their life, from school assignments and work issues to larger things like dating lives and travel plans, keep you in the loop.

Stay close and available

There is something to be said for being close and available. Although this may sound obvious, living within close proximity to family means they are more likely to visit. Staying local means visit are more ‘popping in for a cuppa’ and less scheduled events. When there is a lot of distance involved, parties having to travel either way may need notice or to prepare, and the event becomes less spontaneous.

As well as that, being available is key. There is no point living on the same street if no one is in when the doorbell rings. Similarly, when phone calls are made, or text messages sent, answering them quickly is important. Being local and available means loved ones feel more at ease coming over, and less like they’re imposing. It also means it’s easy to nip out to pick a grandchild up from school or meet up for an unexpected meal when those requests come in.

Stay up to date

Staying up to date with modern trends and technology can help keep positive connections. Knowing what is going on in the world around us is important and is something people can often find common ground on. Catching up over popular TV programmes, using social media to connect or just simply being open to change and new experiences are all ways that staying up to date can aide someone.

This doesn’t mean everyone needs to know everything, but not resisting is half of the battle. Allowing yourself to learn about modern gadgets or get sucked into a new TV show or movie may help create more shared ground to build on a to talk about.

Stay active

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to run marathons or join a sports team, but it does mean you should keep moving. The world doesn’t stop moving because you’ve sat down, and being willing to go out and meet people, pop over for dinner or watch a school play are small gestures that make a big difference. If you struggle with mobility and rely on tools like a home stair lift this may seem like an unappealing option, but with a little planning and a little help, there is no reason why low mobility should hold anyone back.

Sitting in the house is great, and hosting parties is lovely, but relationships are a two way straight and you must be prepared to return the favour of a visit. If this is something that does take a bit more effort, discuss this with family and try to make plans. There is no shame in asking for a little bit of help, especially if it means getting to spend even more precious time with loved ones.

These are just a few measures you can take, and it’s worth knowing that you mustn’t be the only one making all the effort. However, by implementing these four top tips it’ll feel much easier to maintain loving and close connections to loved ones and family.

How to cultivate family life in older age:

  • Stay in the loop
  • Stay close and available
  • Stay up to date
  • Stay active

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.