‘Gerontological wellness’ Posts

Social connection is key for senior well-being

August 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Visiting your eldersWhen talking healthy aging, we need to stress the fact that social connection is key for senior’s well-being. Loneliness and isolation can have serious consequences for seniors’ physical and mental health.

Social isolation and loneliness go hand in hand with poor health outcomes. Numerous side effects have been connected to social isolation in the elderly, including dementia, loneliness, and severe depression. Aging parents want to feel included in the lives on their loved ones; sadly, very few have the time to come visit. To make sure our beloved mothers and fathers stay happy and help preserve their general health, it is important to include them in our lives. Edward Francis from Forest, an eldercare village, gives us some tips on how to reduce elders’  loneliness and some ways to help them reconnect with family and friends.

Make transportation accessible

The main cause of social isolation in aging parents is lack of transportation. Most seniors are not in the capacity to drive, so it is important to help them get around in order to socialize and make independent choices. If your parents leave someplace where public transportation is not available, it might be a good idea to call them and ask if they need a lift. Do this twice a week. If you can’t, ask a friend or send them a taxi. Some seniors don’t even know they have public transportation in the area; make time to visit and teach them how to use the bus or the train. It will make them feel more independent, and even prevent a sense of loneliness.

Give aging parents a sense of purpose

Seniors who have hobbies or a sense of purpose are less likely to become isolated. Apart from making seniors find meaning in life, interests and hobbies are social activities by nature. Playing bridge or chess, cooking classes, exercising are all excellent activities aging parents should do to stay entertained. Local senior centers have all sorts of events planned out for seniors; checking those out might also be a great way to meet new people and interact. Doing some volunteering work is an excellent way of expressing and preserving a sense of purpose as well. Encouraging aging parents to stay active and engaged keeps them away from becoming lonely and isolated from the rest of the world.

Encourage your parents to get a pet

Research has demonstrated over and over again that the mere act of caring and nurturing relieves feelings of depression and social isolation. Getting a pet for example, is a great way of staying engaged, feeling more secure and having motivation to use time in a constructive way. Animal companionship fosters relationships with neighborhoods. It is a social stimulant, an icebreaker that gives seniors a serious reason to wake up in the morning and do fun things. Prior to recommending your parent to get a pet, you need to make sure that they can take care of it.

Boosting self-esteem

Many seniors don’t want to socialize because they have a poor image of themselves, particularly of their bodies. Those who lack confidence are prone to being lonelier than those that do choose to interact and have a social life. For instance, overweight seniors feel embarrassed and ashamed; they don’t like to engage because they fear that people will judge their physical appearance. Positive comments and compliments can go a very long way; they help boost self-esteem and prevent seniors from freaking out over their weight and physical appearance. It might be a good idea to encourage your aging parent to adhere to a healthier lifestyle; not just to lose weight, but also to feel better and more self-assured in their own skin.

Recommend vision and hearing tests

Seniors suffering from untreated or undiagnosed hearing or vision issues may want to stay isolated because of their inability to communicate properly. In this case, it might be a good idea to take your parents to the doctor; have them checked out and treated so that they can be back on their feet. A hearing aid can help them overcome their fears of social interaction. Vision tests are equally important because they will allow older people to see better and thus pay more attention to the things happening around them.

Senior parents who refuse to socialize usually have a very good reason for their behavior. It’s up to you to find the root cause of their depression; then you can work together on a solution. In most cases, it’s all about boosting their self-esteem and convincing them that they can have friends and be happy even if they’re in their 70s or 80s.

 

4 Things to Remember to Promote Positive Mental Health in Your Golden Years

May 21st, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Living Well Senior Care in San FranciscoJim Vogel (*) shares with us 4 things to remember to promote mental wellness in seniors. He says maintaining mental health in your golden years is an important component of overall well-being. Seniors are at risk for memory loss, depression, suicide, and mood disorders. Activities that promote an active body and mind can help prevent these ailments and improve the overall quality of life. As you approach your golden years, there are a few important things to keep in mind that will keep you on the path to wellness.

  1. Retirement isn’t for everyone.

It’s becoming more and more common for seniors to take on part-time jobs as a way to get out of the house, socialize, and earn some extra spending money. Working two days a week as a cashier provides a way to make friends in the form of coworkers and also keeps your brain working as you count back change and help customers with their purchases. It also guarantees that you have a reason to get out of the house regularly.

Working part-time can be hugely beneficial in fighting depression as many seniors find themselves staying home and becoming isolated, whether due to mobility challenges that prevent them from leaving the house, or simply not having a good reason to get out and get moving. On top of these mental benefits, most part time jobs require some physical activity whether it be standing, walking, or lifting. Being physically active even a few days per week ensures the body will stay healthy as well as the mind.

  1. Morning Walks Are a Great Start

Exercise is hugely important to mental well-being as well as physical. Exercise has been shown to have positive impacts in combating the symptoms of anxiety and depression – two common mental health issues which a disproportionate number of seniors suffer from. Rather than paying to join a gym or purchasing a home workout video, simply take a morning walk. Morning walks serve a number of purposes beyond exercise. They coax you to get out of bed every morning, they provide an opportunity to socialize with neighbors, and they guarantee you some fresh air. Starting your morning by greeting your neighbors, admiring gardens and flowers, and breathing the morning air is a great start to a positive day.

  1. Hobbies, new and old, never hurt.

Hobbies stimulate both body and mind and can also create opportunities for socialization. The local senior centers are a wonderful place to find (or teach) craft classes which allow you to enjoy a relaxing activity and also socialize. Attending craft classes let you meet like-minded people who enjoy the same hobbies. What’s more, most senior centers offer access to transportation services, so you don’t have to worry about driving your car or taking public transportation, particularly if mobility is a challenge for you.

Hobbies have been shown to reduce stress, even if done in the comfort of your own home. Things such as knitting, quilting, and crocheting are rising in popularity for their utility. A year of making hats, blankets, and scarves means you can save money on Christmas shopping, too, offering beautiful handmade items with a personal touch.

  1. Seniors get free college.

A number of schools in the United States have free programs for seniors who are returning to school whether or not they are degree-seekers. Lifelong learning keeps the mind sharp and attending college courses has even more benefits. Returning to school part-time or simply taking a class or two that interests you provides an opportunity to socialize with your classmates, plus you have a reason to get out of the house and explore your local college campus.

Furthermore, if you were unable to get the degree you always wanted in your youth, acquiring a degree can bring feelings of accomplishment and pride. Even if your local colleges don’t have a senior plan, many will allow you to sit in on classes for free. It’s never too late to cross things off your bucket list.

Becoming a senior comes with a new set of challenges. Maintaining mental health and physical fitness is a top priority which can become more difficult with age. Though most people consider retirement to be a nice, quiet part of life, it may be in your best interests to stay active. Getting a job, exercising, learning a new craft, or going back to school – all of these things enable a relaxing, enjoyable retirement that’s also healthy and active.

(*) Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, created ElderAction.org after they began caring for their ailing parents. Through that rewarding and sometimes difficult process they’ve learned a lot about senior care and specifically the need for more effective senior mental health and support. Their site offers elder-positive resources and other helpful information on aging. In his spare time, Jim loves fishing, reading, and spending time with his kids.

Thank you Jim and Caroline for your insight. It takes a village to care for our elders.