When 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.
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.