Social isolation is a serious problem for seniors, especially in the winter. The cold weather and sometimes dangerous weather conditions make it hard for them to get out and see other people. But even during the rest of the year, isolation is common among elderly people living alone.
Health conditions and decreased energy can keep your parent or loved one from being as socially active as they used to be. Their social life gradually diminishes, until you suddenly wonder when Mom or Dad last spent some enjoyable time with other people.
Don’t let your parent or loved one suffer from loneliness and boredom. Social isolation can have serious effects on seniors. High blood pressure, depression, and death are all more likely in seniors who don’t socialize. On the other hand, there are many benefits to having an active social life, including staying physically, mentally, and emotionally fit. Keeping enjoyable company is associated with better health outcomes for seniors.
Here are some ways seniors can stay connected and beat loneliness:
Build relationships with grandchildren
Family is so important to seniors. Encourage your children to engage their lonely grandparent. They can visit weekly, play board games, and go on outings together. A particularly beautiful way to bond is for grandparents to teach their grandchildren skills or hobbies they’ve cherished over the years. Another way for seniors to bond with their grandchildren is to go through old family photos together, or even start a joint scrapbook project.
Children who live far from their grandparent or other elderly relative can write them letters, send drawings, and talk with them on the phone or video chat. Seniors don’t have to be grandparents in order to build relationships with children. Help your parent or elderly loved one connect with a family who doesn’t have grandparents or whose grandparents live far away. This will be an equally beneficial relationship for your elderly parent looking for children to love, and for the children who are starving for the special attention only a grandparent can give.
Volunteer with local organizations
There are many groups or events that are happy to recruit senior volunteers. If your mom and/or dad are interested, get them involved in causes close to their hearts. Taking tickets at a charity event, for example, is a great way for seniors to get involved in the community. As mobility is often a senior’s biggest barrier to socialization, make sure your parent has a way to get to the event. The organization running the event may arrange a ride for her, or you may have to drive her yourself.
Also confirm beforehand that the venue is wheelchair-accessible, if necessary. If Mom or Dad is mobile, but has difficulty with stairs, make sure there’s an elevator.
Join a club or hobby group
Many seniors have special interests or hobbies they’ve cultivated over the years. Joining a club focusing on their hobby is a great way for them to meet like-minded people. Check with your local craft shop, library, or community center for their lists of available classes and clubs.
Keep in mind that you may have to play chauffeur for your elderly loved one. Also, be prepared for resistance from your parent when you first introduce the idea of joining a club. Your mom or dad may view it as an attempt to control them.
Consider a senior living arrangement
Loneliness is a major factor when it comes to deciding if it’s time for mom or dad to move to a senior care facility. How to make the decision and which type of facility to choose is beyond the scope of this article, but when you see that living alone is causing your parent to deteriorate, it’s time to think about moving. Look for a facility that offers a robust range of activities and fosters a social, warm atmosphere. At Park Crescent Healthcare, we’ve created just that kind of environment, where our residents interact and socialize with each other daily.