There’s a growing problem of social isolation and loneliness in older generations. In fact, the health risks of prolonged social isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according the AARP Foundation.
Many times, when a loved one passes, seniors may feel isolated and exhibit loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress.
Below are five ways caregivers can help seniors lessen the feelings of isolation and loneliness.
1. Make Transportation Accessible
For many, getting out of the house to see a new location or breath of fresh air is enough to clear our heads. Yet, some seniors may not have access to this sort of coping strategy if they cannot drive, leading to increased isolation.
A great way for caregivers to promote seniors’ social health is to provide them with the ability to make independent choices about travel. Offer to drive them around, or teach them how to use senior transportation services. Having access to these services provides seniors with the ability to maintain social connections and participate in group activities and events outside of the house.
2. Encourage Community Involvement
Encourage seniors to participate in community involvement, whether that be pursuing a favorite pastime or learning something new. Plenty of options exist to keep seniors involved and active.
For example, knitting groups and water aerobics are activities that keep seniors active and engaged with community members and friends. Volunteering is also a great way for seniors to occupy their time, and establish relationships with fellow neighbors and community members. Seniors will feel fulfilled knowing their work is driving positive change in the communities where they live. A few fun activities a week can make all the difference in the physical and mental health of a senior.
3. Promote Sense of Purpose
A sense of purpose promotes healthy aging and wellbeing. It’s important that caregivers provide seniors with the means to remain active in their regular routine, as this helps to preserve their sense of purpose. If the senior you care for is religious, encourage them to continue their weekly attendance at their place of worship.
It’s important for everyone to have a social life. Seniors with meaningful relationships and hobbies are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of isolation, so be supportive and help them continue to partake in meaningful activities or practices.
4. Prioritize Family and Friends
While it’s not always possible for families to be close in proximity, it’s important for seniors to feel connected to those they love. Traditions—both new and old—strengthen family bonds. They also offer a sense of comfort and security during times of change.
When possible, make time for the whole family. Find activities that are fun for everyone involved. The goal is to provide a senior with meaningful social interaction. If feasible, incorporate physical activity like a short walk, picnic or card game to get up and move, and provide entertainment.
5. Make Adaptive Technologies Available
Adaptive technologies help seniors compensate for physical or mental age-related changes. Anything from a walker to a hearing aid can enhance the vocation, recreation, education and independence of an individual.
Seniors with untreated hearing and vision problems may avoid certain social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, which can lead to isolation. To increase confidence, promote the use of adaptive technologies. These aids make it possible for seniors to lead active and involved social lives.
Senior isolation is a growing problem. However, there are several resources to help seniors lead happy, healthy lives. Interested in learning other ways to help your loved one face feelings of loneliness and isolation? Subscribe to our blog for more information and remember to check out our resource center for more coping tips.
Image credit: Pexels