There’s a Simple, Science-Backed Way to Make Sure Your Parents Live Longer
In some capacity, everyone’s on a quest to find out the secret to living longer. Do we eat more kale? Start running marathons? Adopt more puppies? It turns out that no matter how hard you work or how busy you are, you’re partially responsible for keeping your parents alive — and there’s scientific evidence to prove it.
Don’t worry — it’s not going to cost you anything. In fact, it’s something you might already be doing — and something you could definitely afford to do more often.
Are you a member of the sandwich generation?
The percentage of adults over 65 isn’t getting any smaller. Experts predict the number of people over 65 in the United States will double by 2060. Mortality rates among this age demographic have gone down. Health-wise, they’re in better shape than they used to be.
This leaves the children of older adults to continue taking care of their parents even as they themselves age and care for their own families. They call them the “sandwich generation,” caregivers divided between raising a new generation and aiding those who raised them first.
Next: Older adults are living longer, but not always disease-free.
Older adults are at a higher risk of disease
Everyone gets sick. At some point throughout their lives, most Americans face a variety of life-altering diseases. Unfortunately, the older you get, the more likely you are to fall ill — and the more vulnerable your body becomes to disease.
Older adults face greater health challenges than the rest of the population. They’re more likely to develop dementia, as well as heart disease, pneumonia, and more. Their mental health is also more fragile.
Next: Your parents might be depressed — here’s how you can tell.
Depression affects older adults differently
Depression doesn’t manifest the same way in older adults as it does for younger people. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, sadness isn’t always the main depression symptom in members of this population. It often goes undiagnosed, which can lead to other health problems.
Decreased energy and abnormal fatigue might be one of the most important — and most ignored — signs. Tiring more easily than you used to might not be a harmless side effect of aging after all.
Next: Your parents would love to get out more — but there’s a good reason why they don’t.
Why are your parents so lonely?
Admit it — sometimes, you mean to check up on your parents and realize too long after the fact that you forgot to return their call. This isn’t uncommon. In retirement, there aren’t any co-workers to eat lunch with. Older adults often lose their friends and spouses. Their own children forget to call them. Suddenly, they’re completely isolated — and it’s not even their fault.
Everyone gets lonely sometimes. While it might seem like a harmless side effect of getting older, it could actually put your parents’ health at risk.
Next: Don’t forget to call your mom — it could save her life.
In old age, loneliness kills
Are your parents lonely? Research suggests that people over 60 who report feelings of loneliness are more likely to experience psychological stress that can cause earlier disability and death.
This makes sense — previous studies, for example, point to depression as a major risk factor for mortality among older adults. It’s not uncommon for members of this population to become isolated — but there’s something you can do about it.
Next: Want to keep your parents around? Here’s what you can do.
The more you call them, the longer they’ll live
When was the last time you called your parents just to have a nice chat? You might not know it, but the more often you dial their number, the greater the chances they’ll stick around. Having friends and loved ones to talk with really can extend a person’s life.
Next: Phone calls keep this part of your parents’ health intact.
You can help lower their risk of dementia
Your parents may face high disease risk, but the sound of your voice — or the warmth of your hug, if you live close — can help keep them healthy.
While seniors benefit in many ways from different types of social contact, one of the most significant is how they benefit cognitively. Giving them the chance to communicate and interact with you more often decreases their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Next: Here’s how to keep your parents occupied when you’re away.
Other ways to ‘cure’ loneliness
If you have kids or a dog, share the extra love with your aging parents. Grandkids, a cat, or a dog can’t cure all diseases, but it can provide comfort and love when you’re not around.
Thinking about adopting a furry companion for your retired parents to care for and adore? These are the best dog breeds for seniors and retirees. Living with a pet, they’ll laugh more, stay healthy, and — hopefully — live longer, too.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!