The Importance Of Social Interaction For Seniors
When it comes to caring for our elderly relatives, we know there are certain health risks that we need to be aware of. Whether it’s falls in the home caused by difficulties with balance and strength, or signs of memory loss that could be symptoms of a disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, there’s a lot to think about. One issue that many people are less aware of, however, is the risk of loneliness and social isolation. Here’s what you need to know about this hidden problem, and how to help prevent it in your loved ones.
Why are social connections so important for seniors?
Human beings are naturally social creatures, and positive connections with others are vital for a high quality of life. A strong social network leads to a number of mental health benefits including increased self-esteem and feelings of belonging, a reduced amount of stress, and greater levels of happiness. It can even help us to live longer, recover from disease faster, strengthen our immune system, and improve our cognitive abilities.
It might sound surprising, but social isolation is actually one of the most serious problems affecting elderly people in the US. Loneliness has been linked with an increased risk of a number of physical and mental health conditions such as dementia, stroke, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and premature death. In fact, social isolation is thought to have a similar level of risk to smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
Of course, social interaction and meaningful connections are important no matter how old we are, but as we age the risk of loneliness increases. This is because older people are more likely to live alone, have fewer close friends, and suffer from other health conditions that make socializing more challenging. They may also have fewer chances to meet people after retiring.
How can I help ensure my elderly relatives are not socially isolated?
Thankfully, there are many steps we can take to help ensure that our elderly relatives do not suffer from loneliness and social isolation. It can be helpful to encourage your loved one to try and make social connections with people of a similar age. For example, they could attend events in their community that are aimed at older people, or take part in senior activities at assisted living facilities. This could include exercise classes, walking groups, book clubs, and hobby circles. These offer fantastic opportunities to make meaningful connections with others, and have some fun at the same time!
Other options include volunteering with local charities or places of worship. This has the added benefit of connecting older citizens with people of all different ages and backgrounds, as well as giving them a sense of purpose and achievement. Finally, one of the easiest ways to help your elderly relative is also the most obvious—connect with them more yourself! If you live nearby be sure to visit regularly to see how they are, or if you live far away then make the most of phone calls and video chats.
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