Good neighbours play a roll in stroke recovery

Smart Aging A recent study, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that stroke survival in close-knit neighbourhoods is higher than for those who live in less sociable neighbourhoods.

“This is an interesting angle in that it looks specifically at the importance of supportive neighbours on well-being and survival following stroke,” comments Christine Moppett, social worker, Baycrest Stroke Clinic.

The researchers interviewed three groups of seniors about their relationships with their neighbours, for example they were asked whether they know their neighbours’ names; do they help each other with chores such as yard work or looking after children; do they spend time outside talking; do they look out for each other.

They found that although stroke incidences didn’t differ among the neighbourhoods, the survival rates did.

The quality of relationships is important

“This is not surprising. We have recognized the importance of a positive social environment in stroke outcome and general well-being for a long time,” adds Moppett. “Other research studies have suggested that people with larger social networks of friends showed fewer physical limitations in recovery following their stroke.

“Isolation can also be an issue following stroke. They can’t always participate in the activities that they enjoyed previously and friendships can be impacted. This can affect not only survival but the quality of recovery and outcome.”

People who don’t have social support are also at increased risk for depression, particularly following stroke. “What I hear often from stroke survivors is how they appreciate those people who stick by them and continue to reach out to them, especially when their confidence may be shaken following their stroke,” notes Moppett. “The quality of the relationships and the kindness are so important.”

It makes sense that feeling part of a community is important. Staying in a neighbourhood that you’re familiar with, with people you have known for many years, gives a feeling of security. Neighbours who recognize your routine may sense when there is a problem and call for help.

“These days, some younger people don’t know their neighbours. But for many older people, their community has played an important role in their lives and support system,” says Moppett. “Many seniors have grown children who are busy or live further away. Their neighbours are the continuity in their daily lives. Often they provide practical as well as social support.”

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