Loneliness and social isolation is never good for anyone, especially seniors. Research into social settings has shown that social interactions are both mentally and physically beneficial for people of any age. Conversely, loneliness and social isolation has been linked to a number of health issues, all of which can be detrimental to your loved one’s overall health and wellbeing. Numerous studies have even linked social isolation in seniors with a shorter lifespan. Unfortunately, social isolation among seniors is incredibly common, and continues to increase in prevalence as the baby boomers grow into their twilight years. Recent research has even shown that nearly 43 percent of seniors who live at home are socially isolated, meaning that these seniors are at risk for numerous health issues. Considering the fact that social isolation can be incredibly detrimental to your loved one’s health and wellness, it is an issue that should be addressed. If your elderly loved ones are socially isolated or seems lonely, then it may be time to step in and help them get out of their social funk. With these tips, you can help your loved one overcome their social isolation and reap the benefits of becoming a regular social butterfly.
As seniors grow older, many lose their ability to see properly and thus lose their driver’s license. Some seniors, who do have their licenses, refuse to drive during certain periods of the day when there is high traffic or when it is dark outside. In order to help your loved one become more social, you can offer them transportation to help them get around easier. If your loved one lives in a city, then you can teach them how to utilize public transportation safely. If they live in the country, then you can offer them rides to help them complete their errands or find them a caregiver who can help them get around town. By offering rides to your loved one or by teaching them how to use public transportation, you can help your loved one maintain their social connections and a healthy sense of independence as they grow older.
Promote a Sense of Purpose
Seniors who have a sense of purpose or who have many hobbies are less likely to succumb to social isolation. Besides providing a sense of purpose, many hobbies are also inherently social in nature. Any type of hobby that involves a group can be construed as being socially healthy. Group hobbies that are great for seniors include playing cards, playing sports, volunteering and group knitting. Encouraging seniors to maintain their hobbies or to pick up new hobbies can provide them with a purpose in life and provide them with a social outlet so that they do not become socially isolated.
Encourage Religious Seniors to Maintain Attendance at their Places of Worship
If your elderly loved one attends church or religious ceremonies often, encourage them to continue to do so. Research has shown that seniors who attend regular religious services can socially benefit from the weekly or monthly social connections. Seniors who regularly attend religious services have been exhibited to have lower mortality rates and feel as if they have a bigger purpose in their life.
Give Your Loved One a Pet or a Plant
Many experts agree that giving your loved one a pet or a plant to take care of can greatly benefit their social calendar. The act of nurturing something like a plant or a pet can relieve the feelings of social isolation. Plus, pet owners specifically tend to be more social in nature. Pet owners can take their pets to parks in order to give their pets a social outlet, and in turn, can meet other pet owners. Giving your loved one a pet or a plant to nurture is a great idea to help your loved one relieve their feelings of loneliness.
Notify the Neighbors
Since socially isolated seniors may be vulnerable to a variety of unexpected problems and may have underlying health conditions such as dementia, you should consider informing your loved one’s neighbors about their behaviors. Their neighbors can bring your loved one food every once in a while, or simply check in on them whenever you are out of town. Plus, they can be a good contact for you, if you wish to see how your loved ones are doing.
Address Health Issues
Certain health issues may cause your loved one to be socially isolated. If your loved one suddenly loses interest in being social, then they may be having issues with their vision, their hearing or with incontinence. Seniors with these types of health issues may be embarrassed about their shortcomings and may wish to stay in the comforts of their own home. To help them overcome their social isolation, you may need to address their health issues and get them help. Once they have controlled their health issues, they should become social once again.
Give Extra Support to Seniors Who Have Recently Lost a Spouse
If your loved one has recently lost a spouse, then they may be extra vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. For these seniors, it is incredibly important to give them extra support both socially and mentally. Check on them frequently and visit them often. Go the extra mile by spending more time with them the first weeks to months after their spouse’s death. This can make a huge difference in your loved one’s demeanor and well-being and help them grieve for their spouse.
Social isolation is an easy phase to enter whenever people grow older. Many seniors do not have a lot of friends in their older years. But, just because they may not have a ton of friends, does not mean they cannot make new friends. If your loved one seems lonely or seems socially isolated, then try these tips to help them make new friends. By making new friends and staying social, your loved one can stay healthy both mentally and physically.
For additional information and ideas on the topic of social life, check the following articles:
- Tips on How to Build Social Life as a Senior Citizen
- The Benefits of Social Media for Seniors
- Keeping Up and Connecting with the Grandchildren
- How to Protect an Elderly Loved One from Identity Theft