As we age, our social contact with others decreases for several reasons—mobility issues, life changes, like moves and deaths, and health issues. Seniors should socialize in order to maintain good mental and physical health. Here are a few things that you, as a caregiver, can do to help your senior avoid isolation.
1. Encourage Interests and Hobbies
Seniors who have interests and hobbies that they love are more likely to feel like they have a sense of purpose in life, and they are less likely to feel alone and be isolated. Through interests and hobbies, seniors are more likely to spend time with other seniors who share their same interests. Groups and clubs are a great way for your senior to maintain social contact with others. If your senior has yet to find something that they enjoy, consider visiting your local senior center with them and inquiring about what planned senior events are on their schedule.
2. Provide Transportation
Sometimes, the only thing keeping a senior from taking part in social activities is a lack of transportation. Seniors who cannot or should not drive will often opt to stay home instead of going out to group events or to club meetings. Knowing that they have transportation to wherever they need to go can make your senior feel welcome, connected, and independent. If you cannot offer a ride yourself, help them learn how to use public transportation safely. Many cities have services and companies that offer senior-specific rides.
3. Help Them Be Involved in Their Community
Being involved in their community is a great way for your senior to feel connected and feel like they have a purpose in life. Volunteering is a fantastic way for your senior to stay involved in their community and to give back. Through volunteering, they will feel accomplished and proud, and they will meet other people who also enjoy giving back to the community. Websites like VolunteerMatch and Senior Corps can help you find the right volunteering opportunities for your senior. If they would rather be a member of a club or a group, your local senior center should have a list of several senior groups that meet and details about when and where the meetings are held.
4. Keep Them Connected with Family and Friends
As humans, we have a biological need to interact with and to feel to close to each other. Having healthy, close relationships is beneficial in so many ways. Studies have shown that having strong relationships with others can improve one’s health and even increase one’s lifespan. Find ways for your senior to regularly get together with their family and close friends. Encourage them to meet family and friends for meals or family game nights. Eating and playing together are great ways to socialize and spend time with each other. So long as your senior is connected to others who care about them and love them, they will not fall into isolation.
5. Create an Exercise Routine
Creating an exercise routine for your senior is important for both their mental and their physical health. When we move, our bodies release endorphins, and endorphins lower our stress levels and make us feel happy. Exercise is good for seniors for many reasons: it increases blood flow, lowers blood pressure, improves flexibility, strengthens muscles and bones, and helps prevent many different types of injuries. Regular exercise will give your senior a healthy body image and a clear mind. Exercise is a great self-esteem booster, and seniors who have a high self-esteem are less likely to suffer from isolation than those who have low self-esteem. They are more likely to want to leave the house and socialize with others.
6. Address Incontinence Issues
Incontinence is not spoken about as much as it should be, but it is a common problem for seniors, and it could be playing a huge role in your senior not wanting to go out and socialize. It can be an embarrassing topic, but it doesn’t have to be. Incontinence happens to many seniors at some point in their lives. Caregivers and loved ones need to speak about the uncomfortable topics. The only way to deal with a problem is to admit that one exists, and then you can find a solution. Your senior’s doctor may be able to prescribe a medication that will help with their incontinence, or your senior may be able to purchase incontinence products at their local pharmacy that will give them the ability to leave the house and socialize with others. At the Cottages, we use Smart Incontinence Management (SIM) in order to help create the best care plan for your loved one. With SIM, we can assess and address your loved one’s continence needs and help them maintain their independence and their dignity.
7. Make Preventative Healthcare a Priority
Your senior cannot socialize if they are unhealthy, and the best way to make sure that they stay healthy is to get them to their regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments and make sure that they stay on the medications they are supposed to be taking. Pay close attention to your senior, and schedule a doctor’s appointment if you notice signs or symptoms of any new health concerns. Often times, health problems that can be easily fixed or made significantly better prevent seniors from socializing, like hearing difficulties and vision problems. A routine doctor’s visit could potentially help you and your senior address a problem before it becomes a big problem.