Having Children Nearby Helps Widowed Elderly

But bereaved parents need their independence, too, study finds

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THURSDAY, Aug. 25, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- When seniors lose a spouse, having children living close by can help -- as long as it's not too close.

Widowed seniors can enhance their psychological well-being by living within an hour's drive of their children, according to a study by resarchers at Rutgers University and the University of Michigan.

But living with their children can cause their social life to suffer, according to the researchers, who published their findings in the September issue of Research on Aging.

Using data from a survey of more than 1,500 people 65 or older, the Michigan team found that:

  • Living with or near one's adult children is associated with lower levels of psychological distress among bereaved elders -- but only if they don't feel overly dependent on their children.
  • The amount of interaction a widowed senior has with friends, relatives and neighbors significantly decreases if the person is living with an adult child.
  • Parent-child proximity did not affect the despair and yearning caused by the loss of a spouse.

"Our findings suggest that no one living arrangement is uniformly and unequivocally positive for bereaved older adults," study co-author Jung-Hwa Ha, of the University of Michigan, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about bereavement.

SOURCES: University of Michigan, News release, Aug. 16, 2005

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