When you think of your parent’s well-being you often think of physical health and safety. One of the larger challenges many older adults encounter is loneliness in the form of social isolation. As we age, it may become difficult to stay social. Factors like the loss of loved ones and friends, mobility and overall health often impact how social older adults can be and create social isolation.
If you believe your parent or loved one could benefit from being social, you should encourage it. According to research by the Center for Advancing Health, older adults “who are socially active and maintain or increase interactions with others as they age have a slower progression of health declines" than those less socially engaged.
Encouraging your parents or loved one’s social engagements can be simple if you give loving support.
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
Create and maintain social connections with social media.
Did you know Facebook and Twitter are very popular amongst older adults? Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are extremely popular among seniors, because they provide an outlet for ideas, opinions, and creativity. The ease of creating a profile helps you connect or reconnect with family and friends old or new almost instantaneously. The important thing to support your loved one with is using social networking safely as they enjoy a new modern connection with those they love and care for.
Get involved in the community through volunteer work.
Older adults have a wealth of wisdom, purpose, kindness and advice to share with the world. Volunteering is a great way to have an impact on the world and overcome loneliness while being socially active. Connect volunteer work to something your loved one is passionate about and use existing social connections they may have been or are currently involved in. Often churches, soup kitchens, hospitals or nursing homes are great places to start. If your parent has a love for animals, find out if the local animal shelter has a need for volunteers.
Learn or improve a new skill with others.
There’s something exciting about learning new skills. In learning new things, we learn about ourselves and are able to achieve new goals. The idea of “lifetime learning” becomes more and more popular as the population of older adults increases. If your parent or loved one has always enjoyed fashion or art, encourage them to learn how to sew or paint by joining a class at a local community or senior activity center. Lifetime learning can help older adults maintain a positive self-perception and combat depression.
Plan to spend time with family and friends.
If your loved one lives near other family members or friends, encourage them to spend time together. When you have the ability to nurture existing relationships with friends and family members that you appreciate, it can strengthen the bond you have and create new memories. Staying in touch with these important people may not always be in person, but when it is simple activities like sharing a meal or family traditions can provide opportunities for social activity, positive interaction, encouragement and support.
Motivate movement and outdoor activities to stay physically healthy.
Enjoying the beauty of nature is not only great for your health and wellness, it’s also a perfect way to stay active socially. Simple things like talking a walk in the park or attending outdoor events are just as effective as activities like golf, tennis, swimming, or fishing with friends or family members. Any of these ideas gives the opportunity to spend time with friends and meet new people at the same time. Be sure your parent or loved one is dressed for the weather and protects their skin from harsh elements in the summer heat or deep winter cold.
Consider moving to a senior friendly community.
If your parent or loved one is considering a move to a senior community, one major benefit will be the social connections within the community. Traditional communities usually have neighbors occupied with raising children, working daily, and the basics of daily life. Communities that cater to older adults differ in a way that opens you parent or loved one to opportunities to make new friends that are living within easy walking distance. Additionally, there is convenient access to support, events, and outings that cater to seniors specific and unique needs while fostering social interaction. Companies like Caring Transitions can help ease the stress of moving to a community that caters to aging adults needs and lifestyles.
Loneliness and isolation can be overcome by seniors. If you have a senior parent or loved one that could benefit from social interaction, encourage them to create and maintain active social relationships; healthy relationships can have a life-changing positive impact on their physical health.
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