- Karen McPhail, RN, MSN, CDP
Combating Loneliness a National Epidemic!
According to a recent poll on healthy aging, 1 in 3 older adults express a feeling of loneliness. As a care manager I know that social isolation, a lack of access to socialization opportunities, and loneliness is a major and growing problem in older adults. Part of this is due to evolving technology which has impacted how we communicate, with decreased direct personal interaction. There is often a disconnect between the younger generation and some older adults in this regard. Many older adults appreciate one on one interaction and socialization and some consider it rude or impersonal to be approached by text or just email. When people do not have access to daily socialization it not only leads to sadness, depression, and other health issues, it also has a serious negative impact on cognition and can lead to early or accelerated cognitive decline. Living alone and without socialization is not healthy and is detrimental to overall health and well being.
So what can be done to combat this growing problem? If you have a family member, neighbor, or friend who is at risk for social isolation take an active role to assist and resolve as even simple steps can make a difference!
1. Schedule time each week for them. Invite them over to dinner on a regular basis, or if difficult for them to get out bring a meal over to share with them. Let them play a role in the dinner prep if possible to establish normalcy and give them purpose. Give them a chance to talk, encourage conversation on their terms and listen. If you have children involve them in the interaction as intergenerational contact is helpful and beneficial!
2. Pet visits can also be wonderful; consider stopping by when walking your dog for a short visit each week. If you have another pet bring them over for a visit when out and about if this is something they may enjoy or expressed an interest in. Pet visits can evoke so many positive emotions and have clear health benefits!
3. Involve an older adult in a weekly family game night. This is great way to offer socialization and fun interaction! Again, bring the game night to them with fun snacks perhaps if difficult for them to get out.
4. Find out more about their talents and passions and go from there! Are they an exceptional piano player, gardener, painter, knitter, cross stitcher, card payer, etc? If so ask them to teach or tutor you or a family member each week. Or consider involving them in a family project such as planting in planters, baking, or making holiday gifts. Feeling needed and giving purpose along with socialization is a wonderful way to help an older adult to still feel fulfilled and happy!
5. Other simple steps to help other feels valued and less lonely are through sending cards regularly for remote family members, calling each day, doing video calls via an iPad or phone, check in via echo or google home, or sharing in a simple activity remotely. I have patient who has a book club with her daughter, niece, and grand daughter each week; they live far away, but this is done every Sunday through video chat!
6. Accessing programs through local senior centers can be a wonderful way to also combat loneliness, make new friends, and have purpose. Many areas also have social programs, transportation and other services through village programs, area agency on aging, and local Shepherd Centers which have a mission to serve the needs of older adults in communities. Here is a link to one of the Northern, VA Shepherd centers to check out: http://scmafc.org
7. Finally, if there are ongoing limitations to accessing socialization while aging in place a move to senior living community may want to be seriously considered. This of course will need to be done with ample planning and consideration. A care manager can assist with all of these areas and more!
We coordinate local and long distance move, transportation, transitional aspects, physician and general paperwork completion, and even can do complete moves and turn key assisted living apartment set up!
Feel free to reach out via out contacts tab!
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