Social isolation and loneliness are becoming what many consider a problem of epidemic proportion among today’s rapidly greying population. Seniors are increasingly planning to age in place in their homes for as long as possible but this leaves many single elderly adults alone for most of their day and if driving is no longer an option, the problem can become a serious health concern.
During the holiday season, younger family members, neighbors and friends can make a positive difference in the life of a senior by adopting them for family gatherings or just cup of tea and conversation. And instead of buying an elderly aunt or uncle yet another sweater or scarf, consider a gift that will facilitate social interaction like a membership to a local gym that holds senior-friendly classes. Or make arrangements for transportation to local libraries, community centers or places of worship that offer classes, book clubs or other events geared to older adults.
According to Statistics Canada, nearly a fifth of all seniors do not participate in weekly or even monthly activities and in the United States, 28 per cent of people over the age of 65 live alone. Senior isolation has a negative effect of physical and mental health and may also contributes to cognitive decline and an increased risk for dementia.
By helping to re-engage an older adult in their community, you are giving a gift that can bring joy all year and help stop the cycle of social isolation that often leads to depression and a poor quality of life. Gifts of an experienc; a special outing to a play, concert or museum or even a trip to the salon can give elderly adults something to look forward to and open up a shrinking world.
Getting regular physical activity is also important for seniors aging in place to preserve their physical function and independence. A holiday gift that promotes regular exercise and social interaction is ideal and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Many malls have walking groups for older adults who want to get in their steps without risking a slip and fall on the ice during the winter. Doing a little research and making arrangements for transportation through local community services is a great gift for a older loved-one.
To read more about how to help a lonely senior in your community visit Nation Public Radio’s Health News here.