For senior citizens, social isolation and loneliness can quickly become a double-edged sword that robs them of mental acuity and vitality. Decreased social activity is often a contributing factor in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in seniors.
The onset of these conditions can further isolate the elderly because of the new challenges that seniors face while trying to cope with the effects of their condition. As seniors age, family members, friends and community service organizations can help them avoid social isolation and provide options that keep them socially active instead of allowing them to retire from life.
Provide Transportation Options
When driving a car becomes too challenging or unsafe, seniors need alternative transportation that helps them remain active and independent. Public transportation, senior transportation services, and community-sponsored ride sharing are all convenient options, regardless of income levels. Many cities offer senior discounts for public transportation and seniors with mobility issues can sign up to access transportation services for disabled citizens, usually at very reasonable costs. Community organizations and religious groups can also organize ride-sharing options that help seniors continue to participate in community activities and worship services.
Share a Meal
Sharing coffee or a quick meal with friends or family can liven up a senior’s day and reduce feelings of loneliness. Seniors get multiple benefits when busy family members and community service organizations arrange drop-in lunch visits or dinner outings. In addition to reducing senior isolation during the time spent while eating, these activities help to stimulate seniors’ brains by connecting them to outside sources of information.
Use Technology to Connect
Skype, Facetime and a bevy of other apps can reduce senior loneliness between in-person visits. Even seniors with mild cognitive impairment can usually learn to use simple communication technologies, when motivated. If you live too far away to visit regularly, enlist the help of neighbors or younger relatives to help seniors use technology to connect with you on social media sites or by using a tablet or smartphone that supports visual communication.
Identify Group Exercise Options
Most seniors will benefit from light exercise such as walking. To keep a senior motivated, help them plan safe walking routes. Vary the environment (mall walking, parks, or a waterway, if available) to provide sensory stimulation. Tai Chi, yoga and water aerobics are all low-impact exercises that seniors can try with medical supervision. Often adapted versions are senior-friendly, such as chair yoga and bed yoga. If group classes aren’t accessible, seniors can get started with DVDs or videos.
Encourage Learning New Skills
Investigate adult day care and classes provided by organizations and senior care facilities, such as Primrose. Enrolling seniors in classes lets them gain skills, socialize and possibly keep their existing brain cells in top shape. From gardening and piano to learning a foreign language, spending a few hours a week in a classroom exercises the brain and reduces social isolation. Seniors who become proficient can then teach classes to others, helping them remain active and connected.
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