Have you seen Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds, the latest show to hit the ABC? If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and stream it on ABC i View.
This fascinating TV series documents a social experiment where 4-year-olds spend time with the residents of a nearby Aged Care home. They take part in different activities together, leading to many heart-warming (and yes, also tear-jerking!) moments: Bevan celebrating his 94th birthday with excited children, older folk teaching younger kids about ‘the war’, an eager young Aiden leading Eric to collect leaves together outside.
Each episode reminds us about the positive power of empathy, enthusiasm and child-like play. It also teaches us an important lesson: that connecting with people is important to living a healthy and happy life in old age.
This isn’t new information, especially for those of us who work in the aged care industry. We’ve known for a while now that socialization is good for our health.Psychologist Susan Pinker, author of the book The Village Effect: How Face-To-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier, said in her recent TEDTalk:
“Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters and, like a vaccine, they protect you now, in the present, and well into the future … shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress.”
This is especially true as we grow older. Here are just a handful of the many ways that socializing benefits our health and well being as we age:
- slows the rate of cognitive decline
- provides a sense of belonging
- decreases risk of depression
- improves physical health and stronger immune system
- offers a better outlook on life, with things to look forward to in the day
- cultivates good self-esteem and sense of purpose
- even decreases mortality rates
It’s because of these reasons that home care is so important. Carers provide both much needed services and companionship to those who are elderly and find it hard to get out of the house: someone to chat to on a regular basis, to laugh and smile with, to bend a listening ear.
But this isn’t the full picture. Aside from paid professional carers, our elderly also need us – their family, friends, neighbors and wider community – to reach out to them. According to Old People’s Homes for 4 Year Olds, 40 per cent of people in aged care receive no visitors, while 50 per cent report depressive symptoms.
If we know someone who is isolated, the show is a great reminder to spend time with them. Drop by for a cup of tea, join them for a walk around the block, volunteer at a local Aged Care service, even just stop and say hello to the person living alone next-door.
Both you and your elderly loved one or neighbor will benefit from the social connection – no matter whether what age you are.