For many seniors, it can be difficult to stay active as they age. For many older adults, both physical and social activities become more difficult and emotionally draining. This means that they tend to spend more time at home, leaving them alone and isolated.
Isolation in older adults is a serious concern for family members and care providers because isolation can lead to feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and depression. These feelings linked to social isolation can also have negative health effects. Some, like Mental Health America, note a correlation between the body’s ability to heal and repair itself and mental conditions like depression. Healthline estimates that over seven million adults over the age of 65 experience depression every year in the United States alone.
When seniors feel like there’s no one to talk to, this can also mean that they are less likely to share their health concerns or seek medical attention when needed. They’re more likely to suffer through their pain and medical issues, rather than reach out to their physicians, care providers, and any existing family members for needed help and assistance.
This delay in treatment means that conditions may worsen before they’re addressed – often leading to irreversible damage and irreparable lasting effects.
How ever, there are a few things we can do to help the aging adults in our life and keep the feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression at bay.
Hire in home care
For older adults that wish to stay in their home instead of transferring to a care facility, bringing trained staff and other in-home support personnel to the elder’s home is a great alternative. This can keep older adults in their homes longer, and ensure that they are getting both the care they need while feeling both healthier and happier in their own familiar surroundings.
In-home care is a broad term that covers all aspects of care. It can range from medical procedures and other more intensive care from a registered nurse, to assistance with simple housework tasks, meal preparation and planning, and medication reminders. An in-home care provider can be matched to the senior’s needs and wants allowing them to remain in their home and with some semblance of a normal life – especially during the hard transition period after the death of a life-long partner. It also ensures that they have someone physically inside the home checking up on them at least once or twice a week, if not every single day. This person is able to keep an eye on their home, health, and habits – noting issues that need addressed.
An in-home care provider is one of the first lines of defense when it comes to an older adult’s health – they may notice things that a physician or close family members may miss due to infrequent visits. Many are also well-informed about, and trained to look for, signs of serious health concerns like symptoms of diseases that can lead to pneumonia, stroke, memory loss, and dementia. They may also be able to assess any other home hazards like slippery rugs that pose a fall risk, sharp corners, needed home repairs, or other unsafe habits.
No matter how active a senior wants to be – they simply can’t be social if they have no way to get to the various events and activities going on every week. If they’re religious, arrange for another congregant (or group of attendees on a rotating schedule) to pick them up and take them to the church, synagogue, or mosque each week to ensure that they get a change to mix and regroup spiritually with their local friends and community.
There are also services that provide transportation to and from major medical centers, shopping centers, and other oft-visited locations. As seniors age, they may no longer feel comfortable, confident, or physically able to drive themselves to and from errands and appointments. It’s therefore of the utmost importance that we provide them the needed mobility to attend their regularly scheduled appointments like haircuts, grocery shopping, clothing shopping, pedicures, etc.
If the senior you know is not involved in many, or any, social activities – get them involved. If you can’t take them yourself due to work, school, or other obligations be sure to arrange a senior transport service that can take them for the outings.
Books groups, memoir writing groups, art classes, cooking classes, or even low impact exercise activities like swimming and yoga will expand their social circle and also help them get out of the house – avoiding muscle atrophy and social isolation.
Yoga especially, even practiced a few hours a week, has been proven to increase balance and decrease fall risk in seniors – while also strengthening both bones and muscles. In an article published in the International Journal of Yoga, yoga promises to be a perfect therapy for strengthening both balance and coordination in elder adults.