How often do you hang out with your mam? Do you keep in touch regularly by phone? If you haven’t been in touch with her in a while, it may be worth checking in. A recent study carried out by the University of California found that 43% of older women feel lonely, and they’re more likely to suffer from ill health (or even pass away prematurely) as a result.
According to the 2016 census, almost 400,000 people in Ireland live alone – 39.2% of whom are aged 65 and over. While many people are happy in their own company, loneliness can have a major impact on our physical health. Dr Swanick, a GP from Belmullet, County Mayo told the Irish Times that loneliness is “equivalent to 15 cigarettes a day”.
But, unlike lung damage caused by cigarettes, loneliness can be quickly, easily, and cheaply reversed. All it takes is a little bit of effort on our part. Considering we wouldn’t be on this earth without them, a visit or a phone call to our mams is the least we can do. Whether it’s calling in for lunch on Sunday, or nipping over after work to watch the soaps together, quality time spent with our mothers can work wonders on their health. Real-life communication is better than Facetime or Skype, and according to Psychology Today, it can boost their mood and even reduce the risk of depression by nearly half.
We’re social beings and we need human contact to be happy. What’s more, happy people live longer. A study carried out on Catholic nuns found that happy sisters outlived the unhappy ones by 3:1. Scientist David Snowdon discovered that happiness led to improved health and well-being, which in turn saw the nuns live well into their nineties. Considering they lived in the same convent, ate the same food, lived the same lifestyle for decades on end, the only real variable in this study was their levels of happiness, and Nic Marks (author of the Happiness Manifesto) says, “It’s a very strong indicator that happiness is linked to life expectancy. This is a larger positive on life expectancy than smoking and BMI are negatives.”
For those who can’t visit their ageing parents on a regular basis (for location reasons, for example), it’s worth calling upon other family members or neighbours to do it for you. Alternatively, contact Alone. This Irish charity provides a befriending service for anyone over the age of 60. It involves a Garda-vetted, trained volunteer visiting your parent at least once a week for a cup of tea and a chat. The charity also runs regular outings such as cinema clubs and dinner dances to encourage friendships within the ageing community.
Photos: Gilmore Girls, Warner Bros. Television; Kate Hudson, Instagram; Mamma Mia, Universal Pictures