Did you know socialization is just as important for adults as it is for children? Making and having social connections is associated with better health outcomes. While that’s true for everyone, it crucial for the elderly. Research indicates it’s vital for a senior to maintain social connections . Why is social capital – the connections and support a person has with others – so important?
Various studies have shown that seniors with better social support tend to do better across multiple indicators such as :
- Physical mobility
- Mental agility
- The tendency to show health-seeking behavior like cancer screenings
- Cognitive ability
Social isolation is a real problem for seniors. Think about it. As a person grows older, their children move out of the family home. Friends may move elsewhere to be closer to their children. The old neighborhood is no longer recognizable to them. This is the situation they face in their own homes.
No wonder seniors and their families worry about maintaining relationships in a senior community!
What You Can Do for your Residents
What many people don’t realize is that a senior community can offer more opportunities for socialization. A person can find others with similar lifestyles, life stages, and goals. Most of the residents are also retired, dealing with health issues but still want to maintain a busy life. Still, you can offer more ways for your residents to interact with others.
Organize Activities to Stimulate the Mind
Think of ways you can offer social interaction while also encouraging mental stimulation. For example, consider Bingo games. Although stereotyped as an old person’s game, Bingo nights can help seniors stay active mentally. Playing the game requires focus, action, and responsiveness. It also encourages seniors to meet others and make friends. It’s often an excellent ice-breaker for newer residents.
Puzzles and Word Games
Puzzles are a great way to engage seniors in stimulating mental activity. It requires patience and concentration. Unlike other solitary pursuits, it can be interactive and social as well. Consider having puzzle competitions with participating teams. Winning the competition means cooperating with team members and engaging with others which is all part of making social connections.
Word games – whether in a newspaper or online – are also a good alternative. Seniors can play these games with others, even their family and friends. You don’t have to live in the same city to have fun ‘hanging out.’ A lot of seniors enjoy playing word games with their grandchildren. Make it easier for them to play by providing fast wifi throughout the community. A few tablets or computers in common areas can also encourage this type of mental activity.
You might think reading is a one-person activity but have you thought of leading a book club for your residents? A book club motivates members to read regularly and discuss the book with others. It provides entertainment and improves cognitive ability as well.
Fun and Social Ways to Stay Physically Active
Social activities can also impact physical health. Researchers have found that seniors with an active social life are better at getting out of the house and exercising. It doesn’t mean a person should only go to the gym to workout. Even going for a walk every day with friends is physical activity.
So how can you encourage social activities for fitness in your community?
Organize Group Classes
This is a fun way for seniors to interact and stay fit at the same time. Instead of solitary workouts, they have the opportunity to exercise with others. Consider different types of classes to suit everyone in the room. For instance, some people may prefer fast-paced workouts like aerobics or jazzercise. Others may like yoga or tai chi.
Get a Few Wiis
This is an increasingly popular way for seniors to stay fit. That’s because no one thinks of playing their favorite games as exercise! Residents can play games like tennis or golf with others. You can even organize tournaments for everyone to participate in. The best part of it is that even seniors with reduced mobility can play. There’s no need to drive anywhere or make time for gym sessions.
Offer Gardening Opportunities
Gardening has a lot of mental and physical benefits. You can designate a part of the outdoor space in your community as a garden for your residents. Encourage them to grow flowers, herbs or vegetables.
It gives them a long-term project to invest time in. And it motivates seniors to go outside. It also offers plenty of time for everyone to exchange tips on growing plants and interact. Why not offer a few prizes for the best flowers or largest vegetables? Make gardening fun!
Remember that it is critical for seniors to stay connected with others. Humans are not meant to live in isolation. Offer engaging and fun ways for your residents to socialize. It goes a long way towards improving their overall health.