Julie Genthe: Addressing social isolation
Social isolation, a sense of loneliness that comes from a lack of interactions with others, can carry some serious health consequences. Studies have found that isolated individuals have higher rates of heart disease and other chronic illnesses and are often at greater risk for depression and dementia.
Several factors can contribute to isolation among older adults, including the size of one’s social network, the quality of interactions within that network, participation in social activities and more.
As individuals age, new stages of life could reduce daily interactions and increase the likelihood of isolation. Seniors might lose contact with co-workers after retiring or might not see their children as frequently once they start families of their own. A reduced interest in friends or social situations or neglecting a previously cherished hobby might be signs that your loved one is experiencing social isolation.
While talking about isolation can be challenging and emotional, it’s important to discuss the topic early on before any serious health problems emerge. By having an honest and open conversation with your loved one, you can both address the situation in a positive way.
Senior living communities are a great option for those who may be experiencing isolation. These communities provide physically and mentally stimulating opportunities in an active and supportive community-based living environment.
Here are just a few ways a move to a senior living community can help reduce feelings of isolation or loneliness:
• Activities and events — Participating in activities of like interest can help give seniors an easy and accessible way to make meaningful connections with those around them. Most communities also hold regular events throughout the year, which provide seniors an opportunity to engage with their neighbors and spend time with family members.
• Worry-free living — Join friends for a meal while staff take care of the cooking and the dishes! Housekeeping is often included at senior living communities, giving residents the opportunity to relax and enjoy life.
• Strengthen family bonds — Senior living communities also help strengthen relationships between older adults and their families. The sense of relief that comes with knowing your loved one is taken care of can help reduce stressful interactions, and free up more time to enjoy each other’s company.
• Furry friends are invited, too! — Studies have shown that pets can have therapeutic physical, mental and emotional benefits. Many senior living communities will welcome your loved one’s cherished pets, which can lead to frequent opportunities to socialize.
• Live better — Wellness programming in senior living communities allow freedom for residents to choose a variety of physical, emotional, spiritual and vocational gatherings to promote socialization and boost quality of life.
Having a lot of time on your hands can make for long days. By engaging in different activities in a senior living community, older adults can focus on constructive and positive aspects of life while avoiding feelings of loneliness or isolation. Senior living communities offer a variety of programs and initiatives to help bring people together and remove social barriers that can often lead to isolation.
Julie Genthe, RN, is a registered nurse and Expressions Memory Care product manager. She has worked for Prestige Care, Inc. for more than 20 years. Carson Tahoe Expressions Memory Care at Carson Tahoe Care Center will be opening in January.