Social isolation is one of the biggest problems affecting the health of seniors. It means the loss of trusted relationships with the people around you. No one expects their adult children to live close by but it is still a loss when they move away. That sense of loss increases when old friends and family members pass on.
Research indicates that social relationships play a major role in the mental and emotional well-being of seniors. The absence of social relationships can even affect their physical health negatively. Seniors also experience emotional upheaval when moving out of their home and into a new community. That’s why social events and gatherings are highly important to your residents.
Why Is Social Engagement so Important?
Everyone needs people they can trust but this is especially true for seniors. Social capital refers to the security of knowing that you have people you can trust nearby. Wouldn’t you sleep better knowing that help is just a call away if need be? Maintaining your social relationships and being engaged can slow the aging process and offers other benefits as well.
Stay Physically Active
A sedentary lifestyle does no good for anyone. But as people age, they tend to favor such a lifestyle. Maybe your joints hurt too much or your friends move away, leaving you isolated. Whatever be the reason, seniors need an incentive to stay physically active.
Social relationships are probably the best incentive there is. People who maintain a strong network of trusted friends are more likely to be physically active. They attend events together, exercise or otherwise spend time outside their home.
Help Combat Mental Illness
It is a sad fact that a large number of seniors live with some form of mental illness such as anxiety and depression. An active social life helps seniors to combat such mental issues. Your residents are more likely to take care of themselves when they know other people depend on them. Having social obligations such as showing up for an event can help alleviate loneliness. It also gives your residents a sense of purpose. They don’t have to watch TV as a way to pass the time.
Diagnose and Catch Health Issues Earlier
Sometimes people you meet are more likely to notice any changes in your health. For example, a senior may ignore an ache or pain if they’re socially isolated. But if you meet your and friends frequently, you are more likely to seek help.
In fact, research indicates that people with an active social life have shorter recovery times surgery. They are more likely to stick to their medication schedule. They rarely skip doctor appointments and adhere to the recommended treatment.
Now that the other of the importance of social engagement, how can you foster a sense of community among your residents?
Organize Social Events Regularly
Quite a few communities organize social events for the residents. But if you don’t stick to a regular schedule, your residents may forget that they even exist. You don’t just have to stick to major holidays to celebrate. How about Taco Tuesdays or Friday Night Bingo twice a month?
Depending on the frequency of these events, send out a monthly reminder highlighting the dates. Of course, not every resident will attend every event. But it’s up to you to make sure that they know what’s going on.
Use Technology to Help Them Stay in Touch
Contrary to popular perception, seniors are not afraid of technology. In fact, many of them embrace services like FaceTime. Such services allow them to keep in touch with friends and family members. You can use similar services to help residents talk to each other within the community.
Do you provide Wi-Fi in communal areas? You could set up a directory with resident names and photos to help them remember their neighbors. How about an online portal that shows upcoming events or allows them to book restaurant reservations? All these things go a long way to encourage your residents to stay socially active.
Schedule Group Classes
You can organize a number of activities as group sessions for your residents. Anything from yoga classes to a painting corner can encourage seniors to gather in communal areas instead of retreating to their rooms. Many seniors prefer group activities as it gives them more opportunities to cultivate friendships.
But not everyone likes large crowds and the noisy atmosphere. Have a separate area such as a library that is designated as a quiet place. It gives residents space away from the noise if need be.
All of us have a need to connect with other people. Man is a social animal and seniors are no exception. Active and social residents are the key to a happy community, so creating an atmosphere where seniors can invest in social relationships is vital.