Socialization and community connection is a key aspect of a long and happy life. Elders who have thriving social lives usually display increased cognitive ability, better mental health and tend to be more physically fit due to their active lifestyle. Less social seniors find they experience the opposite of those benefits. Unfortunately, as we continue into the Covid-19 pandemic, we are seeing an increase in seniors who are becoming more withdrawn and less socially active. This can be a concern, especially due to the beneficial aspect a thriving social life has on seniors. However, social withdrawal in seniors can be navigated with support and care by trusted family members and friends.
If you are a loved one of a senior citizen who is experiencing social withdrawal, consider planning social events that would pique their interest. Often seniors avoid making their own social calendar due to frustration involving scheduling. If you plan and schedule a social event, then the frustrating leg work will be done and your elderly loved one can sit back, relax, and enjoy the party. Even outside the holidays try and plan regular social activities, consider trying out a new restaurant each week, going to the movie theatre once a month, or hosting a big family dinner party in your own backyard.
As the world becomes increasingly vaccinated, we can enjoy our social time out of our homes. However, some seniors and immune-compromised individuals may still want to err on the side of caution and remain physically distanced. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing and with social media becoming more prevalent, it is easier than ever to stay in touch with your friends and family online. Social platforms allow seniors to keep up-to-date with what their friends and family are doing, video call to get a more visual personalized chat, and even find new friends on hobby groups who share the same interests as them. Social media can be a great way to stay informed socializing and safe.
Adopting a Pet
Companionship is critical for seniors, as it keeps their minds active and improves their mental health. A pet can be a perfect companion for someone who may be struggling with socializing out of their comfort zone but still needs love and affection. There are a variety of pets, depending on your circumstances. An active senior would love a dog to go hiking and adventuring with, while a relaxed senior may prefer the quiet company of a cat. An artistic senior may enjoy building a beautiful aquarium for fish, while a quirky senior may enjoy taking pictures of their lizard. There is a pet for everyone, and if pet ownership is not an option for a senior, then visiting a friend’s pet or volunteering at a shelter can be wonderful alternatives.
There are a variety of health benefits to getting active and going outdoors, including an improved sense of self, better emotional health, and an increase in physical fitness flexibility and endurance. These are not the only benefits to outdoor activities, they are also great opportunities for planned and spontaneous social interactions. Taking a daily walk with a pet or friend is a great way to get out of the house and get socializing. Finding a hobby outdoors can also introduce you to new friends, and interests.
While some seniors may want to join groups online regarding their favorite hobby, some may prefer the brick-and-mortar clubs in their local community. Everyone has a hobby, and your elderly loved ones’ hobby can be a gateway to new friendships and social experiences. You can look online by searching your local community for a specific hobby group, for example, local kayaking clubs in the summer. Or you can call around to local community centers to see if they have any recommendations. These social benefits can also be attributed to charity work and volunteering, so if you have a big-hearted senior who has a cause that they are especially passionate about, then getting them into a scheduled volunteering routine can be a huge morale boost. Community centers, religious organizations, and charities can thrive due to regular volunteers, so discuss what your elderly loved one is passionate about and see who requires their skills.
It can be difficult to encourage your elderly loved one to socialize, especially if they are experiencing pain, fatigue, or social anxiety. If there are physical or mental reasons why your senior is avoiding socializing, then making an appointment with their primary care physician is key to improvement. If your senior wants to socialize but feels it is inaccessible, hiring a personal care worker can assist your loved one and provide companionship. Socializing and community support are critical to the long-term health and happiness of your elderly loved one.