The Importance of a Support Network As We Age

April 14, 2022 12:30 pm

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As we age, we often rely on our social support networks for personal care, engagement, social support, and advice. The extent to which we receive this support depends on the nature of our relationships with these individuals. More distant connections are more symbolic, whereas closer ones are normative and provide emotional support. We may value our relationships differently as we age, as a result of geographic proximity, the health of our friends and family members, and our financial situation.

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While the size and strength of our social networks vary at different times in our lives, they all share some common features. Different instruments measure different aspects of social support. Some are focused on social isolation, while others seek to categorize different types of relationships. In addition to social support, some informal networks are health-related and others are intimate relationships. But whichever group we are in, it is essential to have someone in our corner who understands us and is aware of our needs.

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Social support can be a literal lifesaver. Compared to people with no social support, people with supportive relationships have fewer instances of ill health and premature death. In fact, people with close relationships have higher survival rates from illnesses such as heart disease and leukemia than people without social support. Moreover, if you are living alone, it is vital to have a group of supportive friends or relatives nearby.