All human beings have innate needs. Most people think immediately of air, water, food & shelter as being the most important & they would be justified in thinking this. But, according to numerous accounts throughout history, there are other things that are needed in order for humans to survive in this world. Human touch and interaction are just as important as the other elements that we think of immediately.
There were numerous studies done in orphanages that researched the psychological effects of touch and interaction on those who've been abandoned, & conversely, what can happen if those needs are not met. The same can hold true for those who are on the opposite end of the spectrum of life. Human care, social interaction & basic community can have amazing & life giving help for those who are walking the path into old age. Here are some of the benefits.
Social benefits. If it is necessary for a person to engage in social conversation with others at various times during the day, it keeps one's mind engaged and sharp in order to be able to ask questions and answer them. It helps them to stay engaged in what is going on in the world around them, as well as to pass on their wisdom & life experience to those with whom they come into contact.
Mental benefits. Interaction with others requires focus and concentration. It often brings up points of discussion which may be of interest to us or that might lead us to seek more information on various topics. The ability to do that, and then find answers that we are looking for through research keeps our mental wits about us & can give us further wisdom to offer people.
Physical benefits. While it does not seem particularly easy to see physical benefits from social interaction, just think about when people come to visit your home. It forces one out of the status quo. You must play host or hostess by offering something to eat or drink, show people around the yard or garden, fetch a photograph of someone about whom you're talking or various other small duties throughout their visit. If a person were to simply be engaged in a television program during that time, the effort for even these small things might be regarded as “too much” and that person could easily pass 3 hours time without any physical effort at all. Another physical benefit is that they have people checking in on them on a regular basis & would have help to decipher whether or not it might be time to take a trip to a doctor if a fall or an illness do occur.
Emotional benefits. This benefit seems much more obvious to those looking. Emotionally healthy people are generally those who interact with others, show an interest in their lives & find value in their own. They are easily able to see that things can be difficult for others & develop sympathy for them. They can see that there are many positive things in their own lives & that they have much to offer to others. They can love and feel loved by others.
So how do we go about offering the gift of community to the elderly we come into contact with? First, engage them in conversation! Show that you are interested in their lives & eventually you'll be rewarded in finding some of the amazing adventures that they've lived through.
Second, visit them regularly. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your visit is not important. It may be the only one that they look forward to.
Third, keep them engaged in the world around them. If they seem to be roused by interest in politics, gardening, food or talk of the town, keep them talking about those things & bring articles that may interest them to read or watch while you are gone so that you can discuss them further in the future.
Finally, give them a hug or shake their hand to let them know that you care & are thinking of them. All of us need one another in this world.