SEOUL, Jan.22 (Korea Bizwire) – New data shows that suicidal thoughts among seniors dropped in half when they had a friend that cared for them.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, after the launch of a ‘friend-making project’ for seniors living alone, the number of friends seniors had increased to 1.65 from 0.57, and suicidal thoughts decreased to 9.94 points (out of a 38 point maximum) from 18.26 points.
The ‘friend-making project’ seeks senior citizens who live alone, isolated from their families and neighbors, and are depressed or feel the urge to commit suicide. The project helps them to create a social network of people to care for each other.
Last year, the ministry conducted the project among 3,100 seniors who were living alone. The seniors were divided into three groups: recluses, those with limited social activities, and those who were depressed or at risk of suicide.
A total of 80 community centers provided activities such as cooking classes, cultural experiences, and health programs to similarly-aged seniors, so that they could make friends.
The results showed that the score for depression (out of total of 30 points) dropped from 9.08 points to 7.51 points, and loneliness (out of a total of 4 points) decreased from 2.66 points to 2.54 points. Some seniors even participated in volunteer work and jobs for the elderly.
The ministry is planning to implement the third stage of the project with the 80 community centers selected from 68 local governments in December 2015.
Authorities anticipated that the seniors would become more eager to live if they had at least one friend they could lean on. They also were optimistic that friends could help prevent dementia, suicide, and dying alone out of loneliness.
According to Statistics Korea, the senior citizen population will reach 6,863,000 this year, and 21 percent (1,442,000) are living alone. In other words, one out of five seniors live alone.
The number of seniors living alone jumped 2.7 times compared to the 544,000 individuals in 2000, and is expected to jump another 2.4 times by 2035 (3,430,000 people).
By M.H.Lee (email@example.com)