When is the last time you stopped and actually sat face to face and socialized with your family members or your friends? How about the last time you went out of your way to make someone else’s life just a little less lonely? It’s okay, you can be honest with yourself. Not many people go out of their way to simply sit down and spend time with another person. Or go out of their way to make sure someone else, possibly even a complete stranger, has a brighter day. I know sometimes we go throughout our days in such a hurry, that we forget the small things. Sometimes we feel too busy to spend time with those around us or even put away our phone.
I understand that with the technological advancements of our species most of us having the ability to readily reach out to friends and family with a simple text message. I personally have worked very diligently to shift away from electronic communication and try to focus on physically spending time and interacting with loved ones and other people that may be in need of some company.
A police constable in England was mentally preparing for the worst just after he received an emergency phone call from an older couple in their 90’s. Yet when two Manchester Police officers arrived on the scene, Stu Ockwell and his partner were baffled to find no medical emergency. The only found an elderly couple who simply needed someone to talk to. Mr. Fred and Mrs. Doris Thompson have both gotten to the old age of 95. Sadly Fred is blind, and his wife struggles every day alone, to provide care for him.
It seems like a strange idea and a misuse of an emergency phone line. Constable Ockwell decided that these two souls really did need help, they needed someone to help take the pressure off of Doris and to keep Fred company for a short while. The constable immediately stepped in and offered his love by insisting that he brew up some tea and sit and talk for awhile.
The visit with the Thompson’s was an enjoyable time for the officers and the elderly couple because they sat and chatted for half an hour, while listening to Fred happily regale the two bobbies with his amazing stories of his services in World War II.
“He’s an amazing character and had us in fits of laughter,” Ockwell told ITV News. “It made my day.”
I bet you didn’t know that one of the best psychological impacts you can make on someone is simply sitting and interacting with them face to face. Alvin Toffler wrote his book titled Future Shock back in 1971, and looked to warn everyone about the potentially detrimental impact on the psychological states of individuals and even entire societies based strongly on “too much change in too short a period of time.” I strongly believe that a majority of us are in a state of Future Shock.
What are the long-term consequences of the continued limitations of social contact on our mental health? A recent study helps to suggest that our mental health benefits of regular face-to-face social interactions can help reduce the risk of sinking into depression, especially among older adults.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society did a study in October 2015 titled “Does Mode of Contact with Different Types of Social Relationships Predict Depression Among Older Adults? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey,” and was published online.
The researchers involved with the study was able to find out that when we have more limited face-to-face social contact, it can nearly double an individual’s risk of slipping into depression. Some of the participants of this study who were able to meet family and friends on a regular basis were a lot less likely to report any types of symptoms of depression. However when compared to the amount of participants who simply contacted people through telephone or email, the results were less positive than the other group. This means that phone calls are not enough to stave of depression.
Alan Teo, M.S., M.D, the assistant professor and lead author of Psychiatry Oregon Health and Science University stated,
“Research has long-supported the idea that strong social bonds strengthen people’s mental health. But this is the first look at the role that the type of communication with loved ones and friends plays in safeguarding people from depression. We found that all forms of socialization aren’t equal. Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression.”
I used to work at a nursing home and while I was there some of the sweetest people share their incredible life stories. I would sit and listen to them learning all kinds of things that you can’t find anywhere else. Our elderly are gold mines of information just waiting for a listening ear.
Now I know that they may not agree with everything you do but that one-on-one connection could make all of the difference in their life. The wonderful elderly people I worked with sometimes reported that they hadn’t had anyone visit them in years. Perhaps it’s time that we change the face of society and instead of hiding away our old we re-engage with them and learn everything we can while we still can.
When was the last time you visited the elderly? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo: ITV News, via The Telegraph