Have you ever thought about the link between being needed and health? As I’m thinking about it, that link could probably go both ways. I am wanting to tell you about the health benefits of being needed. But, I’m sure you could make a case that being overworked in constant demand can have negative health implications.
Think of a woman you know who went from caring for children and her husband to now being in an empty house with infrequent visits from children.
Think of a man or woman who worked in a very demanding job with a lot of responsibility who has now retired.
Often, we dream of the day everyone is raised and on their own. We dream of the day we reach the point of retirement.
Then, when that day comes you find yourself lonely. It is not as exciting as you expected. Reading books and relaxing can get boring.
Aging joints, accidents, and new medical conditions can create changes to retirement plans. Loss of a spouse can create changes to retirement plans. Children with jobs that take them away can create changes to retirement plans.
Social isolation is a real hazard to your health. Social isolation is when you don’t feel like your belong, don’t have much interaction with other people, don’t have people to call to get out and do something, and no/few close personal friends.
Social isolation can be bad for your health when it leads to drinking, being less active, or eating less healthy meals. It can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, or depression.
We all Need to be Needed
A very innovative program was launched in the early 1990’s called Eden Alternative. They call their method, ‘person-directed care’. When I first heard about it in the 1990’s a very clear picture was left in my mind. A senior living facility had enhanced their environment by bringing in a cat, a dog, birds, a garden on the lawn, indoor plants, and a baby chick. There was a woman who wanted to spend all of her time in her wheelchair. The physical therapists were trying all they could think of to encourage her to walk and get stronger. She refused. Then she saw the baby chick. She did not want it to be eaten by the cat, so she put the chick in her wheelchair and pushed it. That chick, of course, became a chicken that continued to get first-class rides in the wheelchair.
Even people who were extremely incapacitated were given ‘jobs’. Even if it was caring for an African Violet. Some planted and worked in the garden. Some fed and cared for the birds. Some brushed the dog. Residents could sign up for the responsibilities that met their interests and abilities.
It was impressive how depression, anxiety, and pain were so much better with these changes. Since that time, the Eden Alternative has grown and spread and documented even more inspiring outcomes.
New Ideas to Decrease Isolation
I know many people who live in areas where they don’t feel safe getting out to walk. Some no long feel safe driving. Some don’t have the desire to get out and about without a partner.
So, some really smart minds have been working on ways to keep all of the health benefits of interacting with other people. Here are some of the creative options:
Virtual senior center. Using technology, you can take art classes, chat with others, participate in yoga or tai chi, and other activities. There are a lot of ways to keep in touch with family, read to someone, discuss topics, and support each other with technology.
Concierge driver options. Uber and other driving services are starting to offer unique options to take the stress out of getting out. There are groups working on strategies to provide more helpful driving service for people with walking aids, ways to coordinate outings such as restaurant or art gallery trips, and ways to make driving services more easy to coordinate.
This is only a very quick overview of the importance of interaction with other people, the dangers of isolation, and some of the many new ideas being developed. Stay tuned; I think we will all be amazed at what is to come.
For more information about the need to be needed and the dangers of isolation, or for updates on the amazing new advances we are hearing about, please contact us at www.medsmash.com or 410-472-5078. We’d love to tell you more!
For further application, check out my personal blog.