Study after study has shown that some form of active socialization can have a positive affect on one’s health. Unfortunately, as many of our elderly loved ones age, they begin to lose many of their social contacts. First, they lose their ability to drive which limits their access to friends, family, and social activities. Then, a spouse becomes sick which makes the other spouse more homebound to care for their loved one. And finally, as we age, many of our friends pass away which also reduces potential contacts. Failing to maintain social interaction can have serious effects on one’s health causing poor emotional health and depression, high blood pressure, decreased physical health and a greater risk for death. The need to maintain social interactions, and thus good health, is strong and here are more reasons why.
According to an article by Gary M. Skole, Elderly in Home Care Doesn’t Mean a Lack of Socialization, Ezine Articles, January 5, 2010:
Those elderly folks who get out and interact and spend more time with people during cold/ flu season actually get fewer colds and illnesses than those who spend their time alone.
Those folks with a companion pet to interact with have fewer illnesses than people who do not have a companion animal.
Those who often use the words “I”, “mine”, and “me” during casual conversation are more susceptible to heart attacks than those who do not focus on themselves.
Our natural immune system is negatively affected by social isolationism.
With these things in mind, here are a few tips for increasing social activities with the elderly loved ones in your life:
Encourage them try and learn a new skill such as joining a knitting group
Promote a sense of purpose by encourage them to volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home
Encourage them to join social groups such as at a local senior center or church
Find out local senior activities that might be available such as senior conferences
Encourage them to get fit by joining a local gym where interaction is more prevalent then sitting at home
Assist with transportation or encourage them to use NACOLG buses
Encourage them to maintain attendance at their place of worship
Encourage hearing and vision tests, and attending regular physician appointments so that they do not avoid social interactions due to a health concern
Make adaptive technology available such as hearing aides
Notify neighbors or declining social interactions and have them assist in visits
Encourage dining with others such as a weekly dinner with friends
Address incontinence issues to avoid embarrassment or isolation
Social interaction can give a sense of belonging, enhance self-esteem, improve physical health, increase cognitive function, and give purposeful living. Whatever the change may be, encourage them to get up, get out, and truly live by interacting with others!