8 Ways to Prevent Isolation in Seniors

October 13, 2015

Isolation, boredom and loneliness are an all too common reality for many older adults. The National Council on Aging estimates that one in six seniors in the U.S. face barriers that isolate them from their peers and communities. Losing a spouse, the inability to drive, and living alone are a few contributing factors that can often lead to senior loneliness.

If you notice signs of loneliness and boredom in your senior loved one, take action. These feelings can lead to depression and other health problems like cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline to name a few.

Here are a number of ways you can help prevent senior loneliness and depression for your loved one: 

  1. Give back. Encourage your loved one to connect with others by volunteering or working part time. Volunteering and working can help seniors feel that much needed sense of purpose. Caregivers can help by searching for senior volunteer programs and securing transportation to activities.
  2. Get moving. Group exercise programs, like senior aerobics, are an effective way to reduce isolation and loneliness, not to mention these activities are great for seniors’ physical and mental health. Even lower impact programs, like stretching, can boost their overall sense of wellbeing. 
  3. Have fun. Encourage your loved one to take up (or rediscover) a hobby like gardening, playing bridge or bird watching. Many hobbies are inherently social, providing engagement with others. Need inspiration for senior activities? Look to your local senior center for activities.
  4. Adopt a pet. Pet ownership can help seniors lead a happier and more social life.  Not only do pets provide endless companionship, caring for a pet can also give seniors a sense of purpose. Pet ownership is also a great ice breaker and way to make new friends. 
  5. Make transportation easy. A lack of transportation is one of the biggest reasons seniors become isolated. Offer to drive your loved one to their activities and help them figure out public transportation. Many cities offer free or discounted rides for seniors.
  6. Encourage spirituality. If spirituality and religion is important to your loved one, encourage them to attend regular services and make sure they have easy transportation. Religious services can provide both a wonderful sense of purpose and plenty of social interaction.
  7. Embrace technology. Help your loved one connect to friends, family and the world around them online through websites and programs like Facebook and Skype. Research shows that Internet adoption bolsters the emotional health of seniors. Organizations like the AARP and OATS have technology training for seniors that can help seniors get up to speed.
  8. Consider a senior living community. Moving to a senior living community can address many isolation issues by providing ongoing care, activities, socialization, transportation and companionship. Many seniors find their feelings of boredom and isolation fade away after becoming part of a senior living community.
Connecting with your loved one regularly, making sure they have a sense of purpose and a way to get out into the world is key to helping them lead happy and healthy lives.

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