Avoiding Isolation in Seniors

Isolation among seniors is alarmingly common. We can expect that as the the population of seniors increases social isolation will grow in prevalence. You should learn how to help your loved ones stay healthy by reading about methods and techniques to help them avoid isolation. Rather than simply hoping for the best, we need to figure out ways to promote social integration and interaction for the seniors in our lives. Ultimately, one day “they” will be “us” and our younger family and friends will be helping us.

Availability of Transportation

Lack of adequate transportation is a major cause of a social isolation. Many seniors do not drive. So anything that helpss them to get around and make independent choices about travel will promote their social health. Offering rides to older loved ones and helping them to learn to use public transportation will reduce their stress. Furthermore, it will also help them maintain social connections and a healthy sense of independence.

Having A Sense of Purpose

Seniors who participate in hobbies that interest them are less likely to experience the negative effects of social isolation. Hobbies and interests are often inherently social in nature. Anything activity involving a group, like playing bridge, can promote social health. Encourage seniors to remain active in their hobbies and interests. Maybe provide them opportunities to volunteer in order to help them maintain their sense of purpose and keep them from becoming isolated and lonely.

Maintaining Attendance at Place of Worship

The weekly social connection of regular religious worship can be quite positive. Older regular service attendees benefit from the social interaction and sense of purpose. In addition, they can also benefit from the watchful eye of other worshippers, who are likely to recognize a decline in an isolated senior that might go unnoticed otherwise.

Taking Care of Something 

Many experts note that the act of nurturing can relieve feelings of social isolation. Caring for a pet taps into one’s nurturing instinct. Obviously, before giving a pet as a gift, you need to make certain that the person is capable and willing to properly care for one. Tending a garden can also satisfy a person’s nurturing drive, therefore giving a senior a plant or gardening supplies as a gift can be helpful too.

Positive Body Image

As with all of us, compliments and positive reinforcement goes a long way toward boosting the self-esteem of a senior. Seniors can become self-conscious to the point that they avoid social interactions. Discourage them from fretting over their appearance or the cosmetic effects of aging. For seniors who are genuinely overweight, addressing the root problem by encouraging weight loss through healthy eating and exercise can be helpful too. Just remember to always be positive and sensitive in your efforts to address these particular issues.

Hearing and Vision Tests

Seniors with undiagnosed or untreated hearing problems might avoid social situations because of difficulty communicating or potential embarrassment. Encourage seniors to have their hearing checked regularly and have any problems treated. A hearing aid may be the only thing standing in between a senior and better social health. Vision tests are important too as sight problems might also limit a senior’s social interactions.

Availability of Adaptive Aids and Devices

Adaptive aids and devices, ranging from walkers to the already mentioned hearing aids, help seniors compensate for age-related deficiencies that may impede social interaction. Many seniors do not take full advantage of the devices available to them. Sometimes they may be embarrassed because they don’t want to appear or feel old. For others the device may be overly expensive and not covered by insurance. Both as a society and in our own families we need to encourage and facilitate the use of adaptive aids that make it possible for seniors to have active and involved social lives.

Mike Krzeszak; creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Contacting Neighbors

Socially isolated seniors may be vulnerable to a variety of unexpected problems and may have underlying issues such as dementia. Because of this loved ones should consider informing their neighbors and other members of the community that a vulnerable adult lives in the neighborhood. When possible, trusted neighbors within a block radius or so should be introduced to the senior. Also, you should inform them about any particular issues your parent or loved one has. Ask them to keep a friendly eye out in case anything seems amiss.

Dining With Others

The act of sharing a meal with others is inherently social. Encourage seniors to eat with others whenever they can, whether it’s with a church group, at the local senior center, or at a friendly cafe or diner. Let them know, “the more the merrier.”

Addressing Incontinences Issues

For obvious reasons, a senior who experiences incontinence might be hesitant to leave their home. As a result, they become isolated. When family caregivers and health professionals make sure that incontinence issues are addressed appropriately, through medications or other incontinence supplies, seniors can live life without embarrassment and fear of going into public.

Hugs All Around

We all know that there’s nothing like a hug from grandma. People deprived of touch can experience decreased well-being. Be conscious to always offer a hug when saying hello and goodbye. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Extra Support For Widows and Widowers

Older adults are at great risk for social isolation after a spouse has passed away. Losing someone that you have likely shared decades with can make you feel like your very foundation has crumbled. It is essential to provide even greater emotional and social support for recent widows and widowers during this time of grieving. Flowers are nice but spending time with them is even better. Time spent in the company of others can make all the difference in the world.

Helping Caregivers

If you are a caregiver, remember you need to take care of yourself too. It’s not just the person you are helping who’s at risk of social isolation. If you know a caregiver you should do whatever you can to make that person’s life easier.  Your help might allow them to have a social life of their own which in turn will make them a better caregiver.