One of the drawbacks of growing old is the increase in social isolation. Elderly parents that were once active in their jobs, the community and with their growing families and friends are eventually removed from all of that over the years. Illness, injury, loss of driving ability and more can further separate elderly adults from the activities and people they need. As humans, we instinctively want to connect with others and the extreme lack of interaction can lead to a condition called social isolation. Your elderly parent may be suffering from social isolation, so it’s time to learn more about it.
What is Social Isolation in the Elderly?
When people don’t have the chance to regularly interact with others, and struggle with inactivity, loneliness and depression, they are socially isolated. Seniors are at a high risk for social isolation for many reasons—they are most likely to be retired, living alone and unable to drive. Age-related conditions may render them less mobile, frail and fatigued. The older the person, the more likely they are to be socially isolated, especially if they don’t have family close by. You need to learn how to spot the signs of social isolation in your aging mom or dad so you can step in and help out. Their health and wellness may depend on your intervention.
Researchers have discovered that social isolation is quite bad for a person’s health. Mentally, it can lead to loneliness and depression and hasten the effects of dementia and other cognitive conditions. Physically, social isolation can affect the immune system and increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, obesity, alcohol abuse and slip and falls. Without outside help, many elderly people continue to decline as they become more and more apart from their community.
How to Reduce Social Isolation in Aging Parents
To avoid the serious psychological and physical effects of social isolation, you need to spend some time figuring out how to keep them as active and involved as possible. There are several different ways
you can reduce their isolation and minimize any lonely feelings.
Here are a few ideas on how to keep your aging mom or dad involved in the community:
- Host a book club or game night with a few of their friends.
- Arrange regular transportation to the community senior center activities.
- Give them access to technology like video chats, texting and emails to keep in touch with far-away relatives.
- Hire an elder care aide to assist them with basic care needs and companionship.
- Sign them up as the recipient for any community volunteer programs such as meal delivery and check-in phone calls.
- Invite their clergy leadership over for regular visits.
- Encourage other family members to spend the day or take them on an outing.
- Arrange to attend events that they love with them, such as the movies, plays, concerts or art galleries.
- Check out any volunteer activities your elderly parent may be able to do, such as sort items at a shelter or food bank.
Without help, elderly parents will not be able to avoid social isolation. That’s why it’s important for you to get involved with their activities and make sure they are getting that human connection that we all need to stay happy and healthy.