Written by Nurse Susan
Regular social interaction is essential for seniors, especially those who are living alone and face an increased risk of developing depression.
However, even if they know about the benefits that come with socializing, many seniors feel unmotivated to seek out social engagements, or they feel that they have physical limitations that are holding them back. They may also simply not know how to go about finding opportunities socialize with their peers.
This is where you come in. If you’re worried that a parent or loved one is spending too much time alone, it’s important for you to take some initiative and help them combat social isolation. If you’re feeling a bit lost, start with these five tips:
- Help Them Find Transportation
Whether they no longer own a car or suffer from a medical condition that leaves them unable to drive, many seniors end up isolated because they lack transportation.
If this is an issue for the senior in your life, coordinate with other family and friends to arrange regular rides for them.
You might also want to check with your local senior center to see if they offer any kind of shuttle to help seniors run errands or get to community events. Some cities even give seniors free or discounted bus passes.
- Provide Them With Adaptive Technologies
Some seniors are also hesitant to go out and socialize because they worry about mobility limitations or hearing deficits.
Making sure your parent or loved one has the proper adaptive tools at their disposal may help them feel more confident going out and spending time with their peers.
Some tools that can make a big difference in the experience seniors have out in public include:
- Hearing aids
- Telecoils for busy places like movie theaters and churches
Some seniors may be hesitant to use these devices, either because they’re embarrassed about needing extra help or because they think they’re too expensive. It may take a little coaxing at first, so remember to be patient as you talk up the benefits of adaptive technologies.
- Address Any Incontinence Issues Ahead of Time
Incontinence is a major issue for the majority of seniors. In fact, urinary incontinence affects more than half of non-institutionalized women over the age of 65 and more than one-fourth of non-institutionalized men.
If the senior in your life struggles with incontinence, they may feel less inclined to leave the house, even for short periods of time. To help assuage their fears, make sure you have incontinence supplies like portable toilets and wipes on hand before going out.
- Don’t Ambush Them
When it comes to encouraging seniors to get out and socialize more, it’s important to avoid ambushing them with surprise, last-minute outings. These events will most likely end up increasing their anxiety and may even anger them, especially if they feel like you’re not respecting their wishes.
If you have a particular event that you want to your parent or loved one to attend, be sure to let them know about it ahead of time and continue to remind them leading up the event.
It can also be helpful to contact the person planning the event and let them know about any accommodations your parent may need.
- Start Small
If it’s been a while since your parent or loved one has gone out and socialized, they may become overwhelmed very easily.
To make the event more enjoyable for them, be sure to plan it around their current schedule and avoid keeping them out for more than couple hours at a time.
Planning events earlier in the day can also be beneficial, especially for seniors who are starting to struggle with memory loss or dementia, as they often begin to feel confused in the evening (this is known as sundowning).
Don’t let the seniors in your life become isolated, especially if they’re struggling with an illness, the death of a spouse, or another major life change.
Keep these tips in mind as you encourage them to continue to get out and interact with other people, and remember to always be patient when encouraging your loved ones to break their routine or try something new.