Interacting with children could boost the mental heath of retirement home residents, suggests a new study.
Previous research suggests that common mental health conditions are often undiagnosed and untreated in retirement homes.
Standard treatments for such conditions typically involve a combination of medication and non-pharmacological interventions.
Now, evidence has emerged that regularly interacting with kids could give elderly people a greater sense of belonging and purpose and help manage anxiety and depression.
Researchers studied people at a retirement home in South Africa where residents regularly interact with children who attend an onsite preschool.
The program is in line with a philosophy of elder care called the Eden Alternative, which aims to minimize factors that contribute to anxiety and depression.
Residents completed a questionnaire evaluating their anxiety and depression levels and their experiences with the children.
Ten women participated, with four screening as possibly having anxiety, depression or both.
All the women had some interactions with the preschool children, though some had more than others.
Overall, the women reported positive experiences with the kids.
The study revealed that their interactions promoted a sense of belonging and purpose, a fond recollection of their own childhood, and positive effects on mood and emotions.
Participants had varying preconceptions of children, which may have influenced their experiences with the program.
The researchers believe that these intergenerational interaction programs have the potential to help manage common mental health conditions for retirement home residents.
They now call for larger studies to further explore the benefits.
Study co-author Debbie Marais, of Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said: “Interactions with children promote a sense of belonging and purpose, evoke reminiscence, and positively influence the mental wellbeing of older persons.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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