Active and engaged beats isolation and loneliness

Aug 27th, 2019 | By | Category: Lifestyles

There is a strong correlation between human connection and engagement and the overall impact on an elder’s physical and mental health. Seniors who are imbued with a sense of purpose are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness.

Isolation can increase the risk of mortality, falls, and re-hospitalization among older adults. Feelings of loneliness have a negative impact upon an individual’s physical and mental health, and perceived aloneness may contribute to cognitive decline. Social isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse, and it can instill a sense of pessimism about the future.

How can seniors avoid becoming socially isolated and reap the benefits of remaining engaged?

Volunteer. Freely offering time and skills can decrease social isolation and feelings of solitariness. When you help others, you will find something greater than yourself. This experience is an opportunity to channel energy and, for some elders, their grief and challenges into something constructive and meaningful. For example, the national Senior Corps specializes in placing adults 55 and over in volunteer placements where their wisdom, talent, and skills may be best utilized.

Prioritize engagement. Recognize that your mental health and well-being is equally as important as your physical health. Honor your social engagements as you would a doctor’s appointment.

Be curious. Venture out of your comfort zones, take risks, and try activities you never attempted before. Remaining curious about the world, about learning, and about others is a powerful way to stay engaged.

Obtain transportation. Physical and geographic location often lead to seclusion, and in the case of seniors who can’t drive, transportation challenges remain a significant barrier to living a full life. Seek out organizations near you that provide transport for elders.

Keep learning. This can also help promote overall well-being and create opportunities for socialization through classes and discussion.

Care for an animal. Your new friend doesn’t have to live in your home. Walk dogs at an animal shelter or play with kittens.

Adapt to social technology. Learn about social media/technology so that you can connect with new people online and friends and family.

Take up a hobby. Encouraging hobbies and activities is crucial to remaining engaged in the everyday. What do you love to do?

Finally, take part in activities at the local library, explore your local senior center, or contact local churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations that offer activities and opportunities for socialization.

Sherry Saturno, who wrote this article, is a licensed clinical social worker in New York. Information for this article also came from  helpstartshere.org, an online source of information and opportunities for social work.

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