Combating Loneliness and Social Isolation
June 21, 2021
Seniors Can Still Grow Their Social Network
People generally are social by nature, and high-quality social relationships can help us all live longer, healthier lives. However, older adults often find themselves unexpectedly alone due to factors like the death of a spouse or partner, physical distance from friends or family, or loss of transportation and mobility. These seniors are at an increased risk for loneliness and social isolation — and the related health problems such as cognitive decline, depression and heart disease. While social isolation can be damaging to an older person’s health and livelihood, there are steps seniors and those in their support network can take to help counteract these negative effects.
One in four adults age 65 and older are socially isolated, according to the National Institute on Aging. For these seniors, there can be significant health ramifications. Research shows that:
- People who have a strong social network tend to live longer.
- The heart and blood pressure of people with healthy relationships respond better to stress.
- Strong social networks are associated with a healthier endocrine system and healthier cardiovascular functioning.
- Healthy social networks enhance the immune system's ability to fight off infectious diseases.
Activities to Stay Connected
Chances are you know or interact with someone that is socially isolated. Sometimes it takes encouragement to help seniors stay connected and expand their circle of engagement. Here are activities you can recommend that can help seniors increase socialization and reduce loneliness.
- Meet People with Similar Interests – Suggest they rediscover an activity or hobby that they once enjoyed and restart it. Alternatively, they may want to learn something new, and a group class is a great opportunity to start.
- Stay in Touch with Family and Friends – Remind family and friends to schedule time each day to stay in touch by email, social media, video chat, text, or make a simple phone call. If the senior in your life is not tech-savvy, help them sign up for an online or in-person class at the local public library or community center.
- Nurture Existing Relationships – Encourage them to invite people over for coffee or ask a neighbor to read a favorite book to engage a discussion.
- Adopt a Pet – Suggest they adopt a pet if living arrangements and ability for care allow. Animals can be a source of comfort and may also lower stress and blood pressure.
- Stay Physically Active – Recommend they join a walking club, senior fitness class, or exercise with a friend.
- Get Involved in the Community – Help them introduce themselves to neighbors, join a faith-based organization or volunteer to engage with others in activities and events.
Helpful Social Wellness Resources
The United States’ Administration on Aging (AoA) provides older adults information on social and health promotion activities, as well as a range of services such as meals and transportation. These programs can be found by calling your local Area Agency on Aging or visiting the ElderCare Locator.
The AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect is an online resource featuring tools and information to help evaluate isolation risk and find practical ways for seniors to reconnect to the community. Learn more at https://connect2affect.org.
Oasis Senior Advisors provides this information to help you better serve seniors. If you know of an older adult in need of companionship, activities, or a suitable housing community, contact your local Oasis advisor at (888) 455-5838. One call can offer many solutions for a senior in need.