Importance of Social Support as We Age Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Social Support

The importance of social support as we age

Human beings are social animals who thrive in the presence of other people and need the company even more during the old age. It can be a challenge to maintain adequate social interaction with the old people yet inevitably there will be some old person who will need the social interaction.

As we grow up, the children go away for independent lives or get married elsewhere, the older people start to retire from their jobs hence will no longer be with the workmates or have access to the various social groups that they had in the previous times. This is when the loneliness sets in coupled with the inability to frequently travel, there comes isolation. It is for such realities that Americans need to know the significance of social support to the aged and how to give it or where to get it from.

Apparently a lot of us are too busy to spare time for the aging population. We are busy developing our careers and in pursuit of money and better life and consequently ignoring the frail and elderly into the care homes. Predominantly, we mean to have the aged have a good life within the confines of these care homes though this doe not turn to be true most of the time. This then pushes the elderly to bracket of the vulnerable especially taking into account the dietary trend and the social lifestyle they are forced to adopt to within these homes.

Abstract

The paper is directed at finding out what the social support needs of the old people are and the various categories of support that are available within the community now. The essay also looks at the state of the old people at the present moment as far as social support and family company is concerned. The essay further looks at the significance and benefits that the various social support programs offer the old age people and why such social support programs are important for this group of people.

According to Harold L. Burke (2009), social isolation among the old people has been the key risk factor among those developing or who have developed cardiovascular disease. This is a pointer towards the importance of having social interactions even at old age.

Going by the 2008 census, the number of Americans who had attained the 65 years and above mark had hit 39 million, a figure that catered for on average 13% of all the Americans. The projection for the year 2030 puts the figure at around 72 million to be 65 years and over. By this year 2030, all the baby-boomers shall have acquired the 65 years mark and above, it is estimated that this figure will have risen the percentage of this population to 20% of the entire population.

The senior citizen age bracket does not come any cheaply or easily but involves a lot of intricate issues that need to be keenly handled to ensure they have a good life after their years of serving the nation, one of these include proper social support. According to the national Institute of Aging (2008), the healthcare cost keeps rising each year and this is a dangerous trend for the elderly. The healthcare cost was estimated at $9,200 per year in 1990 and this rose to $15,000 in 2006 and is bound to rise further. Without the proper intervention of the government, it will be very difficult for people who have retired to manage such levels of health care demands.

Types and sources of social support

There are various types of social support that are noted to be necessary for people and especially the aging people however; these are grouped into four major categories. These are (Elizabeth Scott, 2010);

Emotional support- this involves an affectionate way of expressing empathy to an individual. One can express it by telling the aged person how much they understand what they are going through, by hugging, patting on the back and such like emotional assurances will work a long way in providing social support.

Esteem support-this is shown by expression of confidence in the person and giving encouragements. This can be done by highlighting the strengths that the aging person still has and may seem to be forgetting or ignoring or simply letting the person know that you have faith in them. This can be best given by the caregiver or life coaches if the aging person has one.

Informational support- this comes forth in the form of giving you advice to the aging person that is genuine and meant for the better as well as gathering and sharing general information on other issues.

Tangible support- this is done by taking up some responsibilities of the shoulder of the old person so that they can focus their energies in handling some particular problem. This type of support can also be in the form of sharing the problem or the challenge with the person and working hand in hand to solve the challenge to a conclusive end.

There are various activities that can enhance the social interactivity of the aging person and in a great way contribute to the social welfare of the aging person. There are simple activities like joining weekly associations or groups that enable the person have interaction with peers, making calls to know how others are faring and let be heard, volunteering at a church or with a community-based group goes a long way in enhancing the social interaction skills and well being of the aging person.

Research has indicated over the years that there are very significant values of social support in the life of the aging population that cannot be ignored. Some of these benefits are increase in self-perception, stress relief, avoidance of unhealthy behaviors that may threaten the life of the aging person like drugs abuse, fewer sicknesses come their way, the person could have a more positive mood and generally have a longer life.

California Department of Development Services (2010) paints a more vivid picture of the importance of having social support and how that works. Having a social support group can enhance the mental health by;

Alleviating stress- by a support group availing another individual with whom the old and frail person can share their problems with, it shall have created and avenue through which the old person can let go of the stresses that he may be having as cumulative or due to an instance in life. When the old man shares the problems and feels there is someone listening and understanding him, then his worries about the problem or the challenge will be lessened. One the old person identifies the person within the support group they can confide in with confidence; they will feel this person understands them best consequently finding it easier to deal with their problems at that level. This is a possibility since the people found within the social support groups are mostly in a position to contribute recommendations and ideas on how to overcome them.

Increase in the self-confidence and feeling of value by the old person- the feeling of love that the person gets from the social support group will make him feel still important within the society. Through trusting the colleagues in the support groups, they may reciprocate by offering genuine solutions to the problems that the old person has and together overcome the challenges hence be more confident in the group. Good mental health of the individual can also be enhanced by the feeling that he is valued by the group, this will also boost the self-esteem of the individual.

Decrease in feeling of isolation and loneliness -- this is yet another significant benefit of the social support groups. The social support groups offer a lot of fun to stay in since at times they have interactive activities or even just have a talk over what is happening in the lives of the members of the group. These activities always make the old people feel accompanied and have fun as well. Without such activities around them, the old people can feel isolated and left alone hence boredom and loneliness sets in which is a predisposing factor to mental health conditions like depression and stress.

The other significance of social support is the fact that it helps prolong the life of the old age people and help them live a healthy life by reducing the likelihood of developing any serous physical deformities. Stephanie K. Glassman (2012) indicates that those who don't have friends increased the possibility of their dying over a span of 6-months and on yet another study noted by Stephanie, those had friends reduced their risk of death by a significant 60% over a period of 9 years. It is also noted that the more friends a woman had especially at the advanced age, the less likely she is to be a subject of physical impairments hence leading a very happy life as…

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