A social cure for some long-term care ills

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor

Finally. Firm scientific research that drinking in groups is better than drinking alone. Wait, it's not what you think. We're talking seniors. We're talking social. We're talking … water.

It turns out that there are specific benefits to having seniors in long-term care settings gather regularly to drink water, according to British researchers. “Water clubs” bring about better hydration, fewer falls, a better sense of well-being and a better general quality of life, say the team working out of the University Exeter.

Beyond the clinical and physiological benefits of drinking two atoms of hydrogen attached to one oxygen, the researchers found that the social aspects of the seniors coming together had perhaps just as profound an effect. In brief, the group dynamic triumphs once again.

The researchers, who were funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, also looked into other interventions involving seniors. They came away with similar findings. Each was far more effective if carried out among individuals who form a group identity.

“Us-ness,” as they put it, creates a “critically important role in processes of health and well-being.”

This was true for a wide range of studies and surveys that included performance, stress, health and overall well-being. They included examinations of stroke survivors, and the value of group nostalgia among people with dementia.

The researchers refer to their discoveries as “the social cure” and describe them thusly: “It is far more potent than many of the other treatments that are out there. Whether we are talking about stress, depression, or recover from stroke, a supportive group life plays a critical role in a person's clinical path.”

In fact, their expansive findings are compiled in a book called “The Social Cure.” It is a publication that is sure to be more widely read and quoted in the future. Its findings seem to more or less center on one concept: Groups are central to health and well being, especially for seniors.

Or perhaps put another way yet again: Loneliness is a bite.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.