Primeplus Norfolk Senior Center provides socialization to help seniors avoid isolation. Unfortunately, isolation among seniors is alarmingly common, and will continue to increase in prevalence as the population grows. Do you want to know how you can help too? Here are 14 ways to help:
1. Make Transportation Available
Lack of adequate transportation is a primary cause of a social isolation. Because many seniors do not drive, this is a big issue for them, so anything that helps seniors get around and make independent choices about travel promotes their social health. Family offering rides to older loved ones and helping them to learn to use public transportation will also help them maintain social connections and a healthy sense of independence. If you have a loved one in your life, and they live in the Hampton Roads area, feel free to contact Primeplus to help you navigate the transportation system, from I-Ride to Handi-Ride, to our new program launching in July 2016, PrimeRides, utilizing programs like Uber and Lyft to assist seniors.
2. Promote Sense of Purpose
Seniors with a sense of purpose or hobbies that interest them are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of social isolation. Besides providing a sense of purpose, many hobbies and interests are inherently social in nature. Anything that involves a group, for example, playing bridge, could be said to be socially healthy. For an up to date calendar please visit http://primeplus.org/calendars/.
3. Encourage Religious Seniors to Maintain Attendance at their Places of Worship
For seniors who have been regular churchgoers, this weekly social connection has been shown to be quite beneficial. Older church goers not only benefit from the social interaction and sense of purpose that weekly worship provides, but they also benefit from the watchful eye of other churchgoers, who are likely to recognize a decline in an isolated senior that may have gone unnoticed otherwise.
4. Give a Senior Something to Take Care Of
Many experts note that the act of nurturing can relieve feelings of social isolation. Obviously, you would need to make certain that the senior is capable and willing to properly care for the pet before giving a pet as a gift. Assuming the senior is capable of caring for a pet, nurturing and caring for an animal companion can be quite beneficial. Even tending a garden can satisfy our nurturing drive, so giving a senior a plant or gardening supplies as a gift can be beneficial too.
5. Encourage a Positive Body Image
Primeplus Norfolk Senior Center offers a variety of health and fitness classes Monday thru Friday. Check out our calendar (http://primeplus.org/active-adult-fitness-wellness-calendar/) or call us for more information at 757-625-5857.
6. Encourage Hearing and Vision Tests
Seniors with undiagnosed or untreated hearing problems may avoid social situations because of difficulty communicating or embarrassment. Encourage seniors to have their hearing checked and hearing problems treated.
7. Make Adaptive Technologies Available
Adaptive technologies, ranging from walkers to the above mentioned hearing aids, help seniors to compensate for age related deficits and deficiencies that can impede social interaction. Many seniors do not take full advantage of these devices. Sometimes they may be embarrassed because they don’t want to appear or feel old. In other cases, the device may be overly expensive and not covered by insurance. Both as a society and in our own families we can encourage and facilitate the use of adaptive aids that make it possible for seniors to have active and involved social lives.
8. Notify Neighbors
Because socially isolated seniors may be vulnerable to a variety of unexpected problems and may have underlying issues such as dementia, their loved ones should consider informing members of the community that there is a vulnerable adult in the neighborhood. Trusted neighbors within a block radius or so should be introduced to the senior if feasible, informed about any particular issues the senior may have, and asked to keep a friendly eye out in case anything seems amiss.
9. Encourage Dining with Others
The act of eating with others is inherently social. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Dining with others is also likely to help promote better nutrition, which is crucial for the elderly. Primeplus Norfolk Senior Center serves a healthy lunch in the social hall, Monday thru Friday, 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM.
10. Address Incontinence Issues
For obvious reasons, a senior who experiences incontinence may be hesitant to leave their home and could become isolated. When family caregivers and health professionals make sure that incontinence issues are appropriately addresses, for example through medications and incontinence supplies, seniors can have a better opportunity to recognize their social potentials and live life without embarrassment and fear of going into public.
11. Give a Hug
There’s nothing like a hug from grandma. Research has shown that friendly platonic touching from friends and family, like hand holding or hugging, can lower stress and promote feelings of well-being.
12. Give Extra Support to Seniors Who Have Recently Lost a Spouse
Older adults may be at highest risk for becoming socially isolated during the period after a spouse has passed away. When you’ve shared your life with a beloved spouse and companion for decades, it can be like losing the foundation of your existence when that person dies. For this reason, it’s important to provide extra emotional and social support to recent widows and widowers while they are grieving. Do more than bring flowers; go the extra mile and spend more time with the senior in the days and weeks following his or her loss. This can make all the difference for the bereaved senior’s well-being, and it helps to encourage a healthy grieving process rather than a spiral into prolonged depression and isolation.
13. Identification of Socially Isolated Seniors by Public Health Professionals
Often family members will be the first to notice when social isolation is affecting a senior’s well-being, but not all seniors have the benefit of loved ones who live nearby and can check on their well-being. For this reason, public health professionals should be on the lookout for signs of social isolation problems in their clients and patients so that appropriate interventions can be arranged. After all, nothing can be done to help socially isolated seniors if no one recognizes that they are socially isolated.
14. Help Out a Caregiver in Your Life
Family caregivers who are helping to care for an elderly loved one probably don’t consider themselves seniors and are also probably more concerned about the social well-being of the person they are caring for than their own social well-being. But many caregivers are 50+ and caregiving itself can actually trigger social isolation. All too often, they don’t call doctors when they are sick, and they have little or no time to exercise or eat well. Studies show that up to 70% of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. If you are a caregiver, remember to take care yourself. It’s not just the person you are caring for who’s at risk of social isolation, it is you. And if you know a caregiver, or a loved one in your family shoulders the burden of caregiving for an elderly family member, take whatever steps you can to make that person’s life easier and to allow them to have a social life of their own. Primeplus Norfolk Senior Center provides affordable respite care to help families that are keeping their loved ones in their home. For more information, or to schedule a free evaluation, please call our Adult Day Service at 757-625-5857. http://primeplus.org/adult-day-service/