Social isolation among seniors is reaching epidemic levels in Canada. Social isolation, defined as a “low quantity and quality of contact with others,” is marked by an absence of “mutually rewarding relationships.” Social isolation is heavily tied to feelings of loneliness, though a person may feel lonely even in the company of others. Social isolation has many negative consequences for seniors, as it is associated with increased risks of hospitalization, higher levels of depression and suicide, and higher instances of unhealthy behaviours (drinking, smoking, sedentary lifestyle) and is a risk factor for elder abuse.
Social bonds are incredibly important for the physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing of elderly loved ones. With that in mind, let’s explore five different ways you can help Mom and Dad fight back against social isolation and enjoy the well-document benefits of staying social as they age:
No matter your age, companionship is absolutely essential. It may be as simple as watching TV together, playing cards, or just chatting. Companionship doesn’t have to be structured or have any sense of mission. Simply being there for Mom and Dad is often all that they need. Whether it is family visiting, a friendly neighbour checking in, an old friend stopping by, or if you hire a caregiver to provide compassionate, supportive companionship care, that human touch and connection is so important.
As Mom and Dad age, they may no longer be able to drive and mobility limitations prevent them from getting out like they used to. They may feel confined to the home and miss out on group activities, classes, and social outings as a result. Assist Mom and Dad in any way you can to facilitate transportation. Drive them to run errands or attend appointments, teach them how to use OC Transpo or ParaTranspo so they can maintain a sense of independence, or hire a caregiver to assist with transportation.
Sense of Purpose
In our younger years, we are always propelled forwarded the milestones of life: starting a career, starting a family, exploring the world. Upon retirement and with many of life’s milestones already completed, your parents may need a new sense of purpose. Encourage Mom and Dad to maintain their hobbies and learn new skills. Hobbies from golf to bridge are social hobbies, while others can be adapted to a social setting. An individual hobby like reading becomes social by joining a book club, while cooking can be done in the company of others with cooking classes.
If Mom and Dad are religious, encourage them to reconnect with their religious community and place of worship. Not only is attending religious services a rewarding social activity, but many places of worship act as community centres and arrange a number of social activities from volunteer opportunities to sports teams.
Gift a Pet or a Plant
Taking care of a living thing is a great way to fulfill the sense of nurturing that Mom and Dad may miss from their years of childrearing. Owning a dog gives a sense of purpose, provides companionship, and encourages exercise. Note: is extremely important that you speak with Mom and Dad beforehand and ensure that they are prepared for the responsibility of pet ownership. A pet is not an appropriate surprise gift. A low-maintenance gift such as a succulent plant is a safe alternative if your parents are not willing or able to care for a pet.
Fight back against the social isolation epidemic among seniors. Contact us at (613) 706-1586 to learn more about our companionship services.