Research has long proven the benefits of staying active and having a busy social life for elderly people. Apart from helping them cope with the challenges of old age, maintaining social relationships and mobility in old age also impact well-being. In fact, loneliness and social isolation are now known to cause poor health outcomes. In “A Review of Social Isolation” by Nicholas R. Nicholson published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, the author notes how “social isolation has been demonstrated to lead to numerous detrimental health effects in older adults, including increased risk for all-cause mortality, dementia, increase risk for re-hospitalization, and an increased number of falls.”
As life-long family members and friends start leaving the life of your elderly parent, it’s easy for them to fall in a pattern of self-imposed isolation and fear of what lies ahead. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Considering the prevalence of this issue, it’s certainly worth addressing how we can promote social integration among our older loved ones, and with the help of their caregivers – to promote an active, healthy lifestyle suitable for their age.
When you look around in the area, where your elderly parent is living – you are bound to see a new community of people they may enjoy socializing with. In fact, newer neighborhoods with a predominantly senior demographic, are built to be smaller and adjacent to the old. This allows houses to be built closer together, more activities will be shared, and neighbors will be constantly in touch in one community. As such dwellings increase in popularity, it is worth looking into possible re-location options in your state or town.
The biggest deterrent for people at any age is fear of the unknown, but if you offer support during this transition – your elderly parent is more likely to embrace it. It’s very important not to introduce any changes briskly and against their wishes. It would help if you accompany them alongside their personal care assistant the first several times at community events or to simply look around the new neighborhood. This will give them a sense of security and belonging as they get used to life at this new place.
The benefits of this, so-called “social capital” are limitless, but above all – they create ties that build trust, connection, and participation. This is particularly important for seniors, precisely because both our health and social capital tend to decline with age. A variety of age-appropriate activities like communal gardening can increase daily social contacts and stimulation, which in turn has a direct impact on mental and physical health for elderly people.
Such communities offer invaluable help to the care givers of old people as they provide an organic environment, where they feel valued and needed. Often, one of the biggest challenges for elderly people is to stay at home with a personal care assistant and give up all their previous hobbies, feeling like a burden on their family. Fortunately, there are solutions: More and more cities are implementing one form of such senior communities that are designed to maximize sharing, friendship, health, and happiness in our later years. And because people mimic the behaviors of those around us – living in communities that promote healthy practices leads to seniors taking better care of themselves as well. This includes getting regular health screenings, walking around the neighborhood and socializing.
Maintaining a social life has a high payoff for elderly people. From receiving more care and attention to staying healthy and happy – helping seniors to stay engaged with their community and continue to make positive contributions is the first step to help them age not just gracefully, but with vitality.