Is in-person face-to-face contact really that important anymore?

By Steve Moran

Okay . . . taking a little dramatic license here, but according to a recent study that was published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, older adults who have “little face-to-face contact with family and friends are at almost twice the risk of developing depression.”

The study took a look at data collected from more than 11,000 adults aged 50 and older and were a part of the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Survey done between 2004 and 2010. The researchers examined four different avenues of social contact:

  1. In Person

  2. Telephone

  3. Letters

  4. Email

Tough But Good Stuff

Here are some of the highlights from the article:

  • Phone and email does not offset this risk. Only the in-person contact makes a difference.

  • Even when there is frequent phone, email and/or snail mail contact, it does not reduce the risk.  

  • According to the CDC around 1.5% of all older adults have major depression. That increased to 13% percent of those who need home-based health care.

  • Other research suggests that a lack of social interaction can lead to premature death.

Making It Work for Senior Living

There are two things that particularly hit home for me:

  1. We tend to focus on the care and services aspect of what we do when talking to prospects about senior living. Those things are important, but at least based on this data, it is not the most important thing we do. Providing copies of this article to prospects would be a great supplement to your marketing materials.

  2. While we do a fairly good job of providing opportunities for socialization, I am not so sure we do as good of job of figuring out how to make it happen in the day-to-day lives of residents. This is a tough thing for residents who are naturally not social. Somehow we need to figure out how to create socialization opportunities for residents that need “a different kind of socialization.”  

Is this a benefit you already talk about to family members?