Social isolation, defined as a “low quantity and quality of contact with others,” is marked by an absence of “mutually rewarding relationships.” It has many negative consequences for seniors, such as risks of hospitalization, high levels of depression and suicide, and higher instances of unhealthy behaviors or elder abuse. Here are five different ways you can help Mom and Dad fight back against social isolation and enjoy the well-documented benefits of staying social as they age.
No matter your age, companionship is essential. It may be as simple as watching TV together, playing cards, or just chatting. Companionship doesn’t have to be structured or have any sense of mission. Simply being there for your parents is often all that they need. Whether it is family visiting, a neighbor checking in, a friend stopping by, or hiring a caregiver to provide companionship, that human touch and connection is so important.
As your parents age, they may no longer be able to drive, and mobility limitations prevent them from heading to group activities, classes, and social outings like they used to do. Facilitate transportation in any way you can. Drive them to run errands, teach them how to use the transit system so they can maintain a sense of independence, or hire a caregiver to assist.
Sense of Purpose.
Upon retirement and with many of life’s milestones already completed, your parents may need a new sense of purpose. Encourage them to maintain their hobbies and learn new skills.
Hobbies from golf to bridge are social hobbies. A hobby like reading becomes social by joining a book club, and cooking can be done in the company of others with cooking classes.
If your parents are religious, encourage them to reconnect with their religious community and place of worship. Not only is attending religious services a rewarding social activity, but many places of worship act as community centers and arrange several social activities.
Gift a Pet or a Plant.
Taking care of a living thing is a great way to fulfill the sense of nurturing that your parents may miss from their years of child-rearing. A pet is not an appropriate surprise gift, so it is important that you speak with them beforehand and ensure that they are prepared for the responsibility of pet ownership. A low-maintenance gift such as a succulent plant is a safe alternative if your parents are not willing or able to care for a pet.
Social bonds are incredibly important for the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of elderly loved ones. Help Mom and Dad fight back against social isolation so they can enjoy the benefits of staying social as they age.
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