We all yearn for connection and belonging throughout our lives. We build relationships through work, church, volunteer activities, and clubs. And more intimately, through our family and close friends.
As we age, the circle of connection can increasingly lessen. The shrinking of our social network can be voluntary or involuntary. Events such as adult children moving away, retirement, the death of a spouse or a close friend, or illness can shrink our community. As your network constricts, isolation and loneliness trickles in, which can lead to depression, lack of purpose, or illness. An illness exacerbates loneliness, as friends slowly stop visiting, and feeling ill can prohibit you from engaging in social activities.
For many, this describes the condition of an aging parent. Usually, seniors do not voice their concern of aloneness and loss of their social roles to their families. However, over 50% of individuals over 80 years of age report feelings of loneliness (Perissinotto et al., 2012). This one issue is a crucial indicator of the overall well-being of our parents and loved ones.
The good news is that loneliness is not a normal part of aging, even if an illness is present. As adult children, we may become frustrated by our parents’ circumstances. Our own lack of time to devote to their needs can leave us feeling frustrated and guilty. However, by utilizing tools and tactics, we can contribute to their quality of life. There are many great ways to engage them in meaningful activities and provide a sense of belonging.
We have the ability to have virtual family time via real-time videos so that our parent feels included in the family circle. Take a little time to teach your parent how to use video chat, and encourage your children and loved ones to periodically call and fill them in on daily life.
There are so many ways to share photos with family in social networks and photo-sharing sites. You may be surprised just how precious everyday photos can be to your elderly loved ones.
Games and music are great ways to engage brain health in seniors. An example of such technology is GrandPad, a secure tablet designed specifically to combat social isolation. GrandPad brings the power of social, cognitive, and music activity to seniors. This is also a great solution for keeping your parents safe on social networking sites.
If your parent has a desire to be outside the home, encourage volunteer activities or senior centers that restore purpose and enrichment. Educate yourself on community resources for seniors. One example is the Senior Visitors program through Mental Health America of Fredericksburg, where seniors can look forward to a weekly visit.
Some of these tactics may need some nudging, but once most seniors give it a try, they feel significantly more fulfilled with an improved sense of daily well-being.
Brought to you by Comfort Keepers.