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How to Prevent Social Isolation in The Elderly

October 3, 2013 by Jonita Dixon

Senior Living FacilitiesThe Journal of Primary Prevention published an article discussing the effects of social isolation on an elderly individual’s health. The alarming fact is that the prevalence of this condition among senior’s living at home may be more than 40%. Since loneliness can result in many other health issues, it is up to caregivers to ensure that their loved ones remain socially connected. Take a look at the tips below to find out how you can help a senior family member in remaining socially active and forming healthy interpersonal relationships:

  • Help them realize a sense of purpose – Losing the drive or motivation to move forward in life can contribute to social isolation in seniors. Elderly individuals with a sense of purpose are at a reduced risk of getting affected by social isolation. You can help your loved one discover their purpose in life by encouraging them to pursue their interests such as joining a special interest club or taking up a hobby.In fact, you can find certain interests and hobbies that also promote social interaction, making them ideal for seniors. For instance, joining a book club or playing bridge with friends can be the perfect way for your loved one to develop a healthy social life. Another great way for discovering and maintaining a sense of purpose is by volunteering for a charity event or a cause.
  • Give them the responsibility of caring for a pet or a plant – The act of nurturing has been known to have a positive impact on an individual experiencing loneliness. Eve Beals reported in “Emotional Benefits of Dog Ownership” that nurturing a pet can promote an individual’s ability to remain socially engaged with others. Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression or loneliness and are more secure and motivated. Most of them also require fewer medications when compared with individuals without pets.Animal companionship can improve an individual’s chances of establishing friendships, eventually improving the social life of the individual. It is, however, necessary that you ensure your loved one is physically and mentally able to care for a pet. Just like pets, plants can also make great gifts for seniors, as gardening and nurturing plants can help them relieve the feelings or signs of social isolation.
  • Encourage them to dine with others – Eating a meal with others can be considered a social activity, as it provides an individual with the opportunity to engage in social interactions. In fact, many cultures have a tradition in which the entire village or settlement gathers to eat together. Encourage your loved one to dine with others whenever they have the chance, as it  may even promote better nutrition. They can try eating with members at the local senior center or even a church group.
  • Give extra support to the grieving – Seniors are at an increased risk of experiencing social isolation after losing a spouse. This is easily understandable, considering the fact that they have developed a strong bond with the person, possibly because they have spent most of their lifetime together. It isn’t easy to suddenly lose your long-time companion, so it is up to you to provide both emotional and social support to your loved one during this period.

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