After a lot of reading and working with seniors I believe the Senior Peer Program, a program that engages seniors in their home and in support groups, works because it creates social connections. A recent article in “NeurologyNow—The Healthy Brain” reports that “social networks bolster the brain”….”social activity may protect pathways in the brain linked to memory and cognition.” Thereby creating a chemical environment that supports memory without producing Alzheimer’s. So the real culprits in this scenario are the experience (feelings) of loneliness and isolation; both of these internal sensations are also risk factors for depression and suicide in the older adult.
Loneliness effects body chemicals
Researchers believe that loneliness effects body chemicals: by increasing the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone; by weakening our immune response thus creating an inflammatory response; inflammatory responses underlie illnesses like strokes and diabetes. Other researchers have found that living alone is a risk factor for dementia.
My thoughts about these findings are these, “put down those word puzzles and games and find real connections with others —- socialize, volunteer, find a support group, talk on the phone, connect, connect, connect.”