Let's face it: Few of us like to admit it when we need help.
It can be especially tough to swallow your pride when once-simple tasks start to become a daily challenge. No one wants to ask for help buttoning a shirt or picking up the remote control.
But what if I told you that getting some help with those ordinary tasks would help you live longer. Would that be enough to get you to ask for help when you need it?
It's true, and a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society bears me out.
Older folks who live in their own homes, but get regular assistance that combines occupational and physical therapy with some slight home modifications, live an average of 3.5 years longer.
Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia looked at 319 people with an average age of 79 who lived independently but were starting to have functional problems.
Some of those problems were relatively minor, like difficulty picking something up off the floor or opening jars. Others had bigger problems, and couldn't button their own clothing or get in and out of bathtub on their own anymore.
Half were put into intervention groups and got some help. The other half got no additional help.
Those getting assistance met with an occupational therapist five times a week, either in person or on the phone. The therapist also visited them at home and helped them find new ways to do things that had become difficult.
Who says you can't teach an old cowboy a new way to tie a lasso?
Even more importantly, they were also taught how to fall safely, and recover from those falls when they happen.
The result: longer lives.
It's a benefit that kicks in after a year of these visits, and researchers say they believe it's because the therapy simultaneously provides physical, social, and psychological benefits. Seniors who received the intervention felt like they had regained control of their lives – ironically because they got a little help from someone else.
These interventions on average cost a little under $1,000 per patient – and that can be a lot of money for seniors on a fixed income. But if the result is a few more years of living, then it's money well spent.
So if you find yourself encountering those challenges, don't be afraid to admit it – and reach out to someone. You just might live longer, and better, too.