There has been a plethora of research conducted that confirms there is a wealth of benefits gained by maintaining healthy social lives as we age. Isolation, as well as loneliness, continues to be linked to poor physical and mental health in older adults. For some who choose not to participate in activities available to them, social isolation continues to be a growing problem for those seniors. Part of the responsibility of avoiding isolation and loneliness falls on the person, such as making up excuses on why they can’t join in when an opportunity for participation presents itself. Another part falls on family members. I’ve noticed that my aunt and I are the only ones who make the attempt to ensure my grandmother is at every family event.
Here are some suggestions for keeping your loved one social as they age:
- Provide accessible transportation. Many older adults no longer drive and hate the idea of feeling like a burden if they have to ask for a ride every time they want to go out.
- Part of getting older is your body doesn’t work as well. Many issues present themselves, such as incontinence, which can be very embarrassing and prevents seniors from socializing with others. Find the best possible solution or talk to your physician regarding incontinence products.
- Promote a sense of purpose. Older adults with a sense of purpose or hobbies that interest them are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of social isolation. Encourage seniors to remain active in their hobbies and other interests to help keep them from becoming isolated and lonely.
- Encourage seniors to share a meal with others whenever possible. This will help your loved one stay social and also encourages friendships.
Many seniors do not have a lot of friends in their older years. But just because they may not have a large number of friends does not mean they cannot make new ones. Contact the activities director for your community for a list of upcoming events and activities and choose to participate at least once or twice a week. If you can’t find events or activities that interest you, don’t hesitate to make suggestions of things that you’d like to have added to the list of activities offered.
Closing my blinds this evening, I was reminded that summer is winding down and soon we’ll be reminded to set our clocks back as we move from summer to fall. It was 8:19 pm and the sun had taken cover for the evening meaning less daylight. For some seniors that means they will begin spending a lot more time inside. I’ve learned over the years that keeping our older loved ones stimulated mentally, physically and socially can help to maintain health and avoid depression and isolation. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about ways to inspire your loved one to stay active when the seasons change and they begin spending more time indoors.
- Chair exercises are a great way to stay physical; you can make up your own, use a DVD or check out the offerings at the wellness center or gym in your community.
- Create a music playlist of your favorites for a friend and have them do the same for you; this is a great way to explore new music.
- Electronic games such as Wii offer games that keep seniors sharp, like puzzle and math games.
- Host a movie night a couple of times per week, and write a review of the movie to share with friends and/or family.
- Start a book club and have each member host the club for your meeting.
- Crochet or knit blankets for families in need and work with churches in the community to get them distributed.
As we age keeping our mind and bodies active is an important part of our wellbeing. Don’t allow a season change to stop you from taking care of yourself both mentally and physically. If nothing from my list peaks your interest, don’t stop there. Contact the activities director in your community and learn about activities offered there. Keeping yourself healthy and active is extremely important and yields great benefits, both physically and mentally.
Lately I’ve thought a lot about retirement and how great it would be to sleep-in knowing there was no one place I had to be every day. Many of my neighbors have taken the leap and say they are bored, and that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. One commented that retirement means that overnight, you have no job, no structure, no social interaction with co-workers and lots of free time, leaving many seniors feeling bored, depressed and without purpose.
I can’t imagine someone who has retired being anything but ecstatic, free to spend every day doing all those things they didn’t have time to do while working. However, I’m hearing from neighbors that most of them are jealous of me and feel I’m the lucky one because I’m still working. My neighbor Allison said that she feels lost and detached from life as she once knew it. Another says he doesn’t believe retirement has to be a bad thing and that it is up to the retiree to plan ahead. Here are a few suggestions to plan ahead:
- Find a part-time job doing something you enjoy, that you always wanted to do but never had time to do while working full-time.
- Share your knowledge; some colleges and technical schools like to employ people who have a lot of real-world experience, even if they don’t have teaching experience.
- Learn a skill or start a hobby. Many of us have skills and/or hobbies that we wish we’d picked up but never got around to because of our full-time job. The free time that comes with retirement will allow you the opportunity to explore something new.
- Volunteering offers so many possibilities that you might feel overwhelmed, but some things may seem a natural fit if you consider your interests.
- Traveling as a senior has its perks as there are often discounts available for hotels, airfare and rental cars.
The way I see it, retirement is what you make it. Allow yourself time to just stop and NOT get up and out to smell the roses. Take some time to figure out what it is you would like to do and go for it. You’re the boss now. Your time is all yours, so make every second count. Do all the things you wanted to do while working, but never had the time.