Sam Bauman: Old friend shut the door on the outside world
I recently drove to the Bay Area to meet my son, who was there to attend a complex platform class at Google. I planned to stay with an old friend with whom I had worked in Europe. He was working out of Paris for The Associated Press and I likewise in Munich, Naples and Rome and North Africa.
We had seldom worked the same places but became friends through the International Ski Journalists Club, meeting all around the world, from the old U.S.S.R. to Japan.
At first, all was old times. Except he no longer drank wine, had lost his female companion of several years, had no interest in politics or news, didn’t watch TV news or talk shows but did like game shows such as “Jeopardy!” He paid bills that he didn’t understand and often dined on a can of pork and beans. He could not remember many of the things we had done together, from skiing Tahoe to hiking the Redwoods National Park.
I realized he had withdrawn from public life and had no visitors other than his children, who came over from France. He had isolated himself, more by chance than choice. Which the following that I came across on the Internet caught my eye.
“A vast body of evidence demonstrates the physical benefits of a healthy social life. … loneliness and social isolation have been clearly linked to poor health outcomes.
“Social isolation among seniors is alarmingly common, and will continue to increase.” Here are some suggested things to do to reduce that looniness some seniors suffer.
1. Make transportation available. Lack of adequate transportation is a primary cause of a social isolation.
2. Promote a sense of purpose. Seniors with a sense of purpose or hobbies that really interest them are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of social isolation.
3. Encourage religious seniors to attend services. For seniors who have been regular churchgoers, this weekly social connection has been shown to be quite beneficial. “Those frequently attending religious services have been found to have lower mortality rates than those with infrequent attendance.”
4. Give seniors a pet or plant. Many experts note that nurturing can relieve feelings of social isolation.
5. Encourage a positive body image. It’s not just young women who can have social or health issues prompted by body-image concerns. Many older adults avoid social interaction because of a poor body image. For seniors who are overweight, encouraging weight loss through healthy eating and exercise can be helpful, too
6. Encourage hearing and vision tests. Seniors with undiagnosed or untreated hearing problems may avoid social situations because of embarrassment and difficulty communicating. Encourage seniors to have their hearing checked and vision problems treated.
7. Make adaptive technologies available. Adaptive technologies, ranging from walkers to the hearing aids, help seniors compensate for age-related deficits and deficiencies that can impede social interaction.
8. Notify neighbors. Because socially isolated seniors may be vulnerable to a variety of unexpected problems and may have underlying issues such as dementia, their loved ones should consider informing members of their community that there is a vulnerable adult in the neighborhood.
Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.