There are a host of potential dangers to seniors left in isolation. Risks include depression, injury, health decline and falls to name a few.
We are communal beings needing to have contact with others. This doesn’t diminish with age. So how do you help your aging loved one avoid these pitfalls and keep from becoming a scary statistic?
- Be proactive. Don’t wait until your loved one is already struggling with isolation. Create a plan now to help them stay connected with family and their surrounding community.
- Have a frank discussion about interests. Find out their passions, interests or bucket lists. You might find out your elderly mom has always wanted to learn pottery, but life was too busy. Perhaps your dad dearly loves animals and would enjoy helping at the local shelter. An open conversation about interests is the best starting point.
- Make a date. If you live near the senior, schedule regular times to be together. A weekly appointment to have coffee or simply time to play with grandkids makes staying connected a priority. Checking in on each other’s lives is good for the whole family. According to an article released by the University of Florida in 2012, research shows children benefit from exposure to multiple generations of family. Seize the opportunity to expose kids to the treasures elderly relatives bring. Carpe Diem!
- Make this conversation an exciting adventure. Seniors sometimes refuse such offers of help because they don’t want to be a bother so it is important to include them in the decision-making process. Assure your loved ones you are needing their help and input. Discover public and neighborhood resources to stay connected to the surrounding community.
- Look for a class. A class or an adult day program provides ways to connect with peers and make friends. Local community centers, colleges, senior centers, parks and recreation centers offer free or low-cost classes for a variety of hobbies and interests. It’s never too late to learn something new and fun.
- Teach a skill. A gifted carpenter may enjoy teaching the joys of woodworking. A seamstress could pass on her love of sewing to a new generation. Many community centers or craft stores are looking for skilled artisans to teach handcrafting in a variety of mediums to interested parties. Young people are pursuing activities such as knitting, quilting, woodworking, and more. Each generation benefits from another’s talents.
- Check the community calendars. Upcoming events and non-profit fundraisers are listed in newspapers, on television and radio websites. Opportunities to volunteer are also announced, e.g., schools, humane societies and hospitals.
- Remember places of worship. If your senior is active in a church, synagogue or other place of worship, encourage them to contact the office and ask if there are volunteer tasks available. Most places of worship appreciate members giving of their time and talents.
- Demonstrate love. A genuine hug or a kind pat on the hand reinforces your care and love. Human beings need to be touched in loving, safe ways. A kind hug or kiss on the cheek helps lighten stress and brightens each day.
There are many places in our communities where the vital gifts and talents of seniors are needed. Seniors sharing their talents and wealth of knowledge benefits not only the community but keeps seniors connected and decreases isolation.
1 http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/01/13/tennessee-cops-buy-groceries-for-man-79-who-went-days-without-eating.html 2 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1007