As humans, we are social creatures. This is why it is no surprise that social engagement helps keep us mentally and physically healthy as we grow older. The importance of social interaction is well-documented in many studies. It is linked to reducing the risk of some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular problems, and osteoporosis. Moreover, social interaction has been linked to reducing the occurrence of mental health issues including depression.
Individuals who regularly involved in social activities are around 50 percent less likely to display cognitive decline than those who are isolated or lonely. Cognitive performance can be improved from just 10 minutes of daily social engagement, according to the University of Michigan.
Furthermore, individuals who regularly participate in social activities have an increased chance of exercising, eating healthy, and engaging in intellectual activities like reading. In contrast, high blood pressure, depression, as well as a greater risk of death have been associated with social isolation. Therefore, social interaction is an important factor for seniors loved ones. It is vital to stay connected if you want to remain in good health.
Opportunities For Social Activities
Senior loved ones may have opportunities for some social activities and engagement such as playing games, golf, dancing, church groups, clubs, volunteer activities, interacting with friends and neighbors, seeing their children and grandchildren as well as other family members. If your aging loved one receives care from one of the local home healthcare businesses, they will have the opportunity to interact with their caregiver.
Seniors, unfortunately, are often faced with circumstances that can interfere with their ability to pursue social engagements, like physical condition affecting their mobility, grief related to loss of a close friend or spouse, hearing loss, increased pain levels, decreased the sense of security in a changing world, and financial challenges. For some seniors, their family members are not nearby. For many, family visits have dwindled down to holiday’s only. Socializing is not always easy for senior loved ones, which increases the risk of becoming socially isolated. This is why social engagement is of major importance with seniors.
Individuals affected with any type of memory loss, including those with dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), are at a greater risk for social isolation. Seniors who experience memory decline are less likely to seek out social engagements which can lead to apathy and depression. Senior community centers are not trained to handle the unique needs of individuals who experience memory loss. Furthermore, caregivers often state a departure of long-term friends, who – stop calling or extend or decline invitations.
Caregivers understand the importance of social engagement for their senior loved one. Here are a couple of ways that caregivers can encourage social engagement with the seniors in their lives:
Visit the Local Senior Center
This is an ideal way to keep seniors engaged with their peers. Also, senior centers offer activities created specifically for the older adult.
Reminisce About Their Past Experience
Where did their family come from? What are some of the accomplishments they made in life that they are proud of?
Explore Hobbies and Passions
Get the senior reengaged in the hobbies that they once spent time with and enjoyed. Help them pursue their passions.
Games can range in a challenge from checkers to chess and can be a fun way to keep your aging loved one engaged. If physically possible, try games that have a physical component such as mini-golf or bowling.
Above all else, just be present. Your presence alone can be engaging to your senior relative. Watching TV together, talking, etc., can all help with feelings of depression, isolation, and loneliness.