Caring for the family refers to a lot of facets this year that add to the considerations one might usually have. Family is a powerful factor in longevity, and feeling useful helps manage stress and build resilience. Did you know that people who have had children live significantly longer? Thus, taking care of the family is a source of happiness, satisfaction and healthy longevity.
Therefore, to take care of the family, here are 5 important points:
- Family and longevity.
- Help yourself in order to be able to help others.
- For the hard times.
- For the elderly.
- For the more youthful.
Family and longevity
When we look at the particular longevity of certain families, we tend to think of them as having particular genetics that help them age well. Did you know that:
- A person aged 50 to 75 has a 40% chance of reaching 90,
- Men and women born in 1961 = 10.5% (men) and 16.2% (women) chance of reaching the age of 100,
- Being a sister to a centenarian = 8 times more likely to reach 100 years old
- Being a brother to a centenarian = 17 times more likely to reach 100 years old.
You should know, however, that although certain factors have been linked to genetics, the most important factor in families who age well is their culture linked to healthy lifestyles. It is easy to think that children who have been brought up according to certain principles, with personality traits linked to the values facilitating healthy lifestyles, will continue to live like this. Generally speaking, we consider genetics to account for only 15 to 25% of human longevity. The remaining 75 to 85% is related to lifestyle habits.
However, the importance of family does not end there. A study had previously estimated that a person living alone had 15 years less life expectancy on average than a person with a large circle of friends. It is the quality social life that counts above all and the family is the primary source of this underestimated beneficial effect.
Another important facet is helping. As with social life, of course, family comes first, but helping friends also has a positive impact on longevity. A study has shown, after analyzing data from 500 people aged 70 to 103, that helping others increases longevity. 50% of grandparents who helped babysit or helped with household chores were still alive 10 years after their first interview. On the other hand, nearly 50% of the people who were not helping had died 5 years after their interview.
This of course also highlights the importance of being active in everyday life, but other studies have also shown the positive impact on longevity of feeling useful (6,000 people followed for 14 years).
Help yourself in order to be able to help others
Having a strong desire to take care of your family should come with a strong commitment to being yourself at your best. To help, you need to be healthy, both mentally and physically. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself, especially in a context where you aim to help other people over an extended period of time:
- Pay attention to your feelings, emotions and reactions, and give yourself permission to express them to someone you trust or to express them through writing, physical activity or otherwise;
- Engage in a physical activity that allows you to relieve your stress and eliminate your tensions;
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle and get enough sleep;
- Limit the factors that cause you stress;
- Treat yourself to small pleasures (e.g.: listening to music, taking a hot bath, reading, etc.);
- Stay in touch with the people who make you feel good;
- Remember the winning strategies you have used in the past to get through a difficult time;
- Build on your personal strengths;
- Set your limits (e.g.: refuse a task that you don’t want to do and that is not essential);
- Learn to delegate and accept help from others (e.g., asking children to do the dishes).
For the hard times
We use the internet to try to find a new electronic gadget or even the title of the song that is played on the radio. Why not use it when it comes to finding solutions in difficult times? Don’t hesitate to search the web for information. There are a number of approaches, organizations, or informative sites that can be helpful. Here are a few examples:
- Take care of the family (when you have a sick child): https://www.thechildren.com/patients-families/information-parents/taking-care-family
- Kids Help Phone: https://kidshelpphone.ca/?_ga=2.65035626.531527686.1608066813-826506734.1608066813
- Take care of yourself, your family, and your community: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/reports-publications/responding-stressful-events/taking-care-ourselves-families-communities.html
- Institute for Child and Family Development (French Only): https://institutdef.ca/
- Support for caregivers: https://www.lappui.org/en
For the elderly
Above all, be present and attentive! Many older people will not dare to ask for help or signify their needs in fear of disturbing others. Here are some of my recommendations:
- First of all, check to see if they are sleeping well. Sleeping well is defined as a natural, deep and restful sleep lasting more than 5 hours at one time. Taking chemical sleeping pills is not associated with good sleep. I recommend that you read the article “Stop Sleeping Pills in 5 Steps” if this applies to your situation. Quality sleep improves blood pressure, reduces anxiety, increases energy levels, reduces the risk of depression and the risk of many diseases.
- Check to see if they are eating well. Many elderly people have nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12, because they sometimes lose interest in cooking or in certain types of foods (such as meat). You can suggest home cooked meal services that are available in many areas, or you can offer them a cookbook for foods they would like to try cooking. Cooking is also a great creative activity that could change up their routine.
- Keep in touch. In addition to the telephone, it is often easy to incorporate new technologies into our forms of communication to enable visual contact. Consider increasing the frequency and quality of your interactions.
- Promote the social network. As mentioned, quality social life is very important for healthy longevity. Although direct contact is usually preferred, video and telephone communication can still meet a large number of needs. You have to be creative. Participation in volunteer activities is also a very beneficial social activity.
- Without sounding too worried or too intrusive, find out about their state of mind. Watch out for signs of fatigue or anxiety. Chronic stress causes a sharp increase in these problems. There are natural solutions to help with fatigue or depression.
- Vitoli Healthy Aging. It’s never too late to try to maintain your abilities for as long as possible. Vitoli Healthy Aging provides a general solution to improve health and maintain capacities. You can suggest them, or even better, offer them.
For the more youthful
Our lifestyles take hold very early in our development and are difficult to change thereon after. Young people are much more malleable or flexible when it comes to changing habits or introducing new concepts. Now is the time to talk about health holistically:
- Food. Pay attention to the conditioning thoughts developed by the more youthful. If to reward them you take them to eat fast food, or you buy them dinner, they may keep this reward reflex in mind and make it a habit. The reward of eating out, or taking out food, can just as easily be linked to more balanced and healthier cuisine. Also talk about the importance of healthy eating by explaining why certain foods or certain habits are better. Just saying it’s good for you is not enough; you have to give reasons.
- Physical activity. Getting things moving is often more about creating opportunities than talking about them. Take the opportunity to move yourself, you will have achieved two goals at the same time. It can be as easy as going for a bike ride or going to the park with the soccer ball.
- Managing stress and anxiety (including quality of sleep). Here, to talk about management, you have to be able to know and detect the negative effects caused by stress and anxiety. Stress can be partly positive and cause people to push themselves forward. It is the negative stress, the one that creates feelings of being out of control or the anticipation of recurring thoughts. Many young people do not know what stress is and the problems it can cause. Knowing and talking about it is the first step in managing it well and developing things that work for us. Here are some recommendations:
- Increase your resilience
- Accept situations that cannot be controlled
- Strengthen social ties (talk about your feelings)
- Physical activity
- Meditation/relaxation (try free applications).
- Consumption of omega-3s (food or supplements)
- Beware of caffeine (coffee and energy drinks)
- Reduce refined sugars
- Increase your intake of antioxidants (fruits and vegetables)
- Improve your sleep
- Quality social life. It is the cornerstone of happiness in our lifetime. Very detailed studies have shown that quality social life makes us happier and keeps us healthy longer. This is an important facet to explain by taking the time to mention that it is not the quantity that counts, but the quality. Deep relationships that we appreciate and that allow us to grow. Referring to our personal values can be a good starting point for considering which friends are best for us. As John Lennon said, “Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll get you the right ones”.
Other suggested articles:
- Watch Out for Sleeping Pills as You Age
- Lack of Energy While Aging – First the Cause
- Sleep: Your Ally for a Multitude of Health Problems
- Brooks-Wilson, A.R. 2013. Genetics of healthy aging and longevity. Hum Genet. Dec;132(12):1323-38. Review.
- Hilbrand, S., Coall, D. A., Gerstorf, D., & Hertwig, R. (2016). Caregiving within and beyond the family is associated with lower mortality for the caregiver: A prospective study. Evolution and Human Behavior (2016), doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.11.010
- Hill PL, Turiano NA. Purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood. Psychol Sci. 2014 Jul;25(7):1482-6. doi: 10.1177/0956797614531799. Epub 2014 May 8. PMID: 24815612; PMCID: PMC4224996.
- Modig K, Talbäck M, Torssander J, Ahlbom A. Payback time? Influence of having children on mortality in old age. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017 May;71(5):424-430. doi: 10.1136/jech-2016-207857. Epub 2017 Mar 14. PMID: 28292784; PMCID: PMC5484032.
- Publications du ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. 2020. Stress, anxiété et déprime associés à la maladie à coronavirus COVID-19. 3 pages. https://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/msss/document-002471/
- Sebastiani, P., Bae, H., Sun, F.X., Andersen, S.L., Daw, E.W., Malovini, A., Kojima, T., Hirose, N., Schupf, N., Puca, A., Perls, T.T. 2013. Meta‐analysis of genetic variants associated with human exceptional longevity. Aging (Albany NY). 2013 Sep;5(9):653-61.
- Sebastiani, P., Perls, T.T. 2012. The genetics of extreme longevity: lessons from the new England centenarian study. Front Genet. Nov 30;3:277.
- Sebastiani, P., Sun, F.X., Andersen, S.L., Lee, J.H., Wojczynski, M.K., Sanders, J.L., Yashin, A., Newman, A.B., Perls, T.T. 2013. Families Enriched for Exceptional Longevity also have Increased Health-Span: Findings from the Long Life Family Study. Front Public Health. Sep 30;1:38.
- Tabassum F, Mohan J, Smith P. Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK. BMJ Open. 2016 Aug 8;6(8):e011327. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011327. Erratum in: BMJ Open. 2016 Sep 09;6(9):e011327corr1. PMID: 27503861; PMCID: PMC4985873.
- Waldinger RJ, Schulz MS. What’s love got to do with it? Social functioning, perceived health, and daily happiness in married octogenarians. Psychol Aging. 2010 Jun;25(2):422-31. doi: 10.1037/a0019087. PMID: 20545426; PMCID: PMC2896234.