Seniors living alone are often more at risk for social isolation. While we often think of social isolation in the elderly as more of a concern over the winter months or around the holidays, it is actually something that needs to be addressed throughout the entire year.
Perhaps recently a spouse or good friend passed away and your loved one was left with less of a support system or social network. Sometimes loved ones move after retirement to a warmer climate and didn’t take the time to build as many relationships as they should have. Or, perhaps your loved one lives in a rural area where public transportation isn’t readily available, making it difficult to leave the home regularly. Oftentimes, caregivers themselves also face social isolation when they become overwhelmed with their caregiving duties.
The Effects of Social Isolation in the Elderly
While there can be many reasons why a senior is socially isolated, the effects are often the same:
- A decline in physical health.
- Mental health issues like depression.
- An increased risk for cognitive decline.
- An increased risk for falls and readmission to a hospital.
With the aging population growing, more and more seniors will face these effects of social isolation in the coming years. This is why it is so vital to help your aging loved one stay as socially active as possible and continue to form healthy relationships.
Ways to Help Your Loved One Avoid Isolation
Here are a few things you can do to ensure your loved one is staying connected to others:
Suggest downsizing to a senior living community. One of the best ways a senior can avoid getting lonely is to move into a senior living community. These communities make it a priority to offer a wide range of social activities and events that keep residents busy building meaningful relationships with their peers.
Give them a sense of purpose. Encourage your loved one to start a new hobby that provides a sense of purpose. Joining a club, taking a class or meeting friends for a game of cards are all options that can promote the social interaction he or she may need on a weekly or monthly basis. Or, suggest volunteer work.
Enlist a furry friend. When a senior has something to take care of, the act of nurturing can help relieve feelings of loneliness. Pets offer a variety of benefits for seniors, like constant companionship, emotional support, and a way to stay physically active. Research shows that seniors who own pets suffer less depression and feel more stable and secure.
Provide transportation when possible. Some seniors may no longer feel safe behind the wheel, and not having a way to get to doctor’s appointment, run errands and maintain social engagements can become a real issue. Caregivers often help provide transportation to help their loved ones get around, but you can also look into public transportation options or enlisting help from other family members and friends.
Encourage social dining. Eating a meal together provides a great opportunity to engage in social interactions. Plus, seniors who eat in a social setting tend to eat more and have better nutrition habits. Encourage your loved one to dine with others whenever possible.
Recruit help from neighbors. If you’re a long distance caregiver, visit your loved one’s neighbors and ask them to keep an eye out for anything unusual in your loved one’s behavior. This way you can stay informed if anything were to go amiss in between your visits.
American Senior Communities has a variety of housing options available for your loved one to ensure a safe, healthy future, from our spacious Garden Homes to comfortable assisted living apartments. Contact us today to request more information.