Social isolation is one of the most common problems affecting seniors, and we can’t ignore its effects. Older adults may lose many of their social resources as they retire and spend more time at home. Mobility limitations or health concerns can also prevent seniors from getting out into the community and spending time around others.
Everyone needs regular social interaction to stay in good mental health, but it’s even more important for seniors. Social isolation is linked to cognitive decline, poor memory, and even higher mortality rates in older adults. For your mental and cognitive well-being, it’s critical that you get enough quality time with friends, family, and other members of your community.
Here Are 10 Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Social Isolation
1. Social Clubs
Joining clubs is one of the best ways to prevent loneliness and social isolation in seniors. You can look into local organizations for seniors to see if they host any events that are of interest. Another option is to find clubs for seniors through sites like Meetup.com, which has lots of information on a wide range of local events.
Clubs provide an opportunity for seniors to meet new people who share common interests. They also add more structure to the week by offering a recurring event outside the home to look forward to.
Although you can’t converse with animals the way you can with people, owning a pet is incredibly fulfilling. A pet is a full-time companion that can help you avoid social isolation at home. It can be very comforting to have other living beings in your home, especially if you live alone.
There are a number of other benefits of pet ownership for seniors as well. Taking care of a pet adds routine and structure to the day, and petting a cat or dog can relieve stress and anxiety. Walking a dog is a great opportunity for seniors to get physical activity, and caring for an animal creates a sense of pride and purpose.
3. Social Meals
Meals may be one of the times that seniors feel the most social isolation. For most people, eating is an inherently social activity, so regularly eating alone can increase feelings of loneliness.
To combat social isolation, eat with others as often as possible. Invite guests over for a meal, or go to a dinner hosted by a local senior center or church group. Occasionally dining at a restaurant can reduce feelings of social isolation, too.
4. Video Chatting
If you or your senior loved one live far from friends and family, use a video chatting platform to stay in regular contact. Most newer phones and laptops have webcams that allow for video chatting so that you can communicate face-to-face instead of just speaking on the phone. You can even schedule group calls for the whole family to join in. Today’s technology has made long-distance communication much easier, which can be an easy way to reduce social isolation in seniors.
Neighbors can be a great source of social support. Try to get to know at least one of your neighbors so that you have a friendly face close by. Not only is this a chance for social interaction, but knowing that someone nearby is willing to help if needed can give you peace of mind. If you’re a caregiver for an older adult with cognitive or physical health problems, ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye out in case they need help.
6. In-home Care
In-home caregivers offer a variety of services. Some provide round-the-clock care for seniors who need frequent assistance, and some send caregivers to check in on older adults once a day. Even if you or your senior loved one doesn’t need in-home medical care, hiring a home caregiver can prevent social isolation. Not only can you interact regularly with the care provider, but they can also help you get out and about in the community to find other sources of social interaction.
7. Adaptive Technology
Sometimes, health or mobility problems are the primary cause of social isolation. Seniors may have plenty of opportunities to connect with others, but it can be hard to fully engage if they’re facing physical limitations.
Adaptive technology is any service, tool, or device that helps seniors engage in activities they may struggle with otherwise. Here are some examples of adaptive technology that can promote mobility and prevent social isolation:
- Motor scooter
- Hearing aid
- Modified computer keyboard or mouse
- Telephone amplifier
- Vehicle adaptations for easier driving
8. Transportation Services
For seniors who don’t drive, lack of transportation may be the main factor behind social isolation. Finding sources of transportation, whether that’s your friends, family, or a senior shuttle service, can open up a world of possibilities for social support.
Many areas offer senior transportation services, so look into those options in your area. Most cities offer reduced public transportation fares for senior citizens, too, which can be a good option if you or your senior loved one are able to navigate public transportation.
9. Hearing and Vision Care
Seniors with hearing or vision impairments may experience social isolation because they can’t fully connect with others. Even if they’re surrounded by family and friends, if they can’t hear the conversation or see what’s going on, they may feel incredibly lonely.
Vision and hearing tests at the doctor are well worth it to prevent social isolation. Glasses, hearing aids, and other devices can help seniors stay more alert and engaged in the present moment, which helps them maintain meaningful relationships with others.
Social isolation can lead to a decline in your mental health. Sometimes, mental health issues like depression or anxiety are the cause of social isolation. Whenever your mental health interferes with your daily functioning, counseling can be helpful.
The client-therapist relationship can be very valuable for seniors who are struggling with isolation or loneliness. Connecting with someone who will listen without judgment can help you feel seen, heard, and understood, which everyone needs. You and your counselor can address the causes and solutions to your social isolation so that you can find more sources of support with family, friends, or your community.
Social isolation among seniors has serious consequences, but it is preventable. You can help your aging loved one avoid social isolation by finding more opportunities for them to interact with others, making sure they’re in good health, and putting measures in place to make s ocial interaction more accessible. Avoiding social isolation is one of the best things seniors can do to improve their health and get the most out of life.
If you or an elderly loved one is struggling with the effects of social isolation, Blue Moon Senior Counseling can help. Our therapists specialize in working with seniors and addressing their unique mental health needs. Reach out to us today to connect with a licensed counselor.