- Sense of Purpose
Depression and anxiety are leading mental health concerns in American. Isolation is a concern factor that contributes to depression and anxiety symptoms to manifest and continue long term if left unchecked.
Many people struggle once they retire, now without a job, what should they do? Travel, explore uncharted areas, check out new restaurants or hobbies? Once seniors get to a certain age, it may become harder to do these items easily and they begin to question their sense of purpose.
Seniors need a sense of purpose.
Encouraging seniors to remain active in their pursuits of their hobbies and interests, finding needed resources, or finding opportunities for them to be responsible to take care of a pet, volunteer or hold a part-time job can all help to combat isolation symptoms of feeling lonely, depressed or anxious in this chapter of their life.
- Available Transportation
Getting out of the house can be an obstacle for some seniors who no longer drive. There are many local resources for seniors who need transportation. There are assisted living facilities that provide onsite transportation or local reduced rate pick up transportation options for seniors to have access to adequate public transportation. Being able to get out, go to the store or be removed from their daily life even for a short time can make them feel more independent and less isolated. Friends and family can offer to drive their senior loved ones while they run errands and the added benefit to spend time together to keep each other company is a great way to stay socially connected.
- Pet Therapy
If your senior loved one lives alone or they recently transitioned to a new living arrangement can cause a number of emotions to well up. They feel a loss of independence. Aging pains from friends passing away, moving away or their friends and family may be in different states and not available as they once were. Not having friends or family around or a change in environment can cause stress. Feelings of being alone or going through it alone can make one feel isolated and depressed. An option if your loved one is to have a pet, only if they are able or where they live allows for animals. Research has shown that animals can provide mild therapeutic effects for those experiencing stress. Allowing to have the responsibility to care for an animal even for a short period of time can cause an improvement in self-esteem and has the ability to provide a sense of purpose and compassion.
Getting out of the house to go to a local pet shelter to walk or play with the animals who equally feel isolated and need someone to love and take care of them is a rewarding feeling for your loved one. Pets can lower anxiety, blood pressure and help boost memory. It is a constant visual reminder of their responsibility, can contribute to their sense of well-being and may ease the feeling of isolation with the new found companionship.
- Schedule Community Activities
Finding weekly activities that get your senior loved one out of their home can provide mental engagement and provides a sense of purpose. Many seniors find a great deal of enjoyment with community engagement. A seasonal job or volunteering can help them meet new people of all ages. If they aren’t up to volunteering on a set schedule, they may enjoy attending classes at the library, YMCA or local senior center. Many gyms provide free gym classes and access to services through a program called Silver Sneakers. Contact local gyms or look up participating locations to see what is available.
Some local towns provide community activities, such as, Music in the Park or farmer markets, which can get them out to enjoy the fresh air and check out new local community sites. These types of activities can break up the day and add a little excitement. Many assisted living communities bring seniors to events within the community for this very purpose.
Churches are a great resource for craft, sewing or mission work that always need volunteers to help make blankets, hats or other items that they provide to homeless shelters, babies in the NICU or other non profit missions.
- Engage Hobbies
Hobbies are fun way to stimulate the mind, and why not do it with those you love or share the same interests? There are so many different types of hobbies to keep one’s mind and hands busy – painting, scrap booking, wood working, knitting, playing cards, taking a class or being involved in a book club. There may be community activities already in place or one can find a mix of like minded seniors and create a club that is one of a kind. This is a great way to keep stress and isolating thoughts away and help others that may be experiencing the same stressors.
Seniors who express interest in hobbies are less likely to feel social isolation. Many times hobbies and interests can be an activity that involves others. There are many great community resources that your loved one may find to really enjoy. Socializing with friends and family can have many benefits. It can promote lively talks, laughter or hot topic debates.This can keep the mind active and engaged. Discussions with different viewpoints can help to improve and expand critical thinking skills. Having another person to confide in can help to work through personal struggles and lower stress, as one would be able to find ways to relate to another or finding solutions if a concerning problem arises. Regular times spent with friends and family will help reduce the negative isolation symptoms.
- Encourage Exercise
Oh yes! We all know exercise is good for your health. It wouldn’t be in every article that discusses reducing stress for no reason. Exercise really does make us feel good. It may feel hard to do for aging seniors but it helps improve circulation, flexibility, balance and can improve body image that makes them want to get out to be social and interact with other seniors. As noted in #4 – Many gyms provide free gym classes and access to services through a program called Silver Sneakers. Contact local gyms or look up participating locations to see what is available.
- Family and Social Events
Generally food makes us feel good. Sunday get-together’s, special occasions or events all involve food. Getting family and friends together for a meal is a great way to spend time together. Make topics of interest that different members can pick from a jar each week for interesting areas to converse during the meal. This helps to keep the mind engaged and get to know your loved ones better.
Dining is one of the most important elements in senior living communities. Meals are a central part of social interaction. Visiting with friends in senior living helps with isolation symptoms. Visiting with family and friends helps to strengthen bonds with talks about current events but also leads to important heritage discussions that will cease to continue if seniors no longer meet with younger family members to pass their wisdom to the next generation.
Humans are made to socialize, to care for one another by talking about their interests, pains and happiness and they especially need these interactions as we age. One of the most important parts of life is human interaction, emotional connections and having a reason to live(1).
While your senior loved one tries to stay socially healthy. Visiting other seniors that may not have family or friends local, is a great way for your senior loved one to make new friends and contribute to helping the senior community. It can brighten their day, your senior loved one and your own. It is a win-win for all!