How to Assist Your Aging Parents in Coping With Social Isolation?
As we grow older, we inevitably become more isolated from society. We no longer have large social circles to keep us connected. Our health and finances limit our ability to travel physically. This can lead to depression, loneliness, and boredom in old age.
Fortunately for you and your aging parents, there are ways to combat this isolation. I've put together a list of things that people can do to help their elderly parents overcome feelings of loneliness. Read on as we explore this topic together!
Why Are Aging Parents Vulnerable to Social Isolation?
According to a global survey, about 33 percent of adults experienced loneliness worldwide. The most common reasons for social isolation among the elderly include the following:
- Loss of loved ones and friends through death or separation
- Poor health, which lowers their ability to engage in social activities
- Financial issues make it challenging to participate in activities outside the home.
- Lack of transportation to get to social gatherings.
Loneliness is not a symptom of being alone. Instead, it’s an emotional state people feel when they lack meaningful connections. It poses health threats if not looked after at the right time.
What Are the Health Risks of Social Isolation for Your Aging Parents?
But what are the risks of social isolation for your aging parents? As it turns out, numerous health risks are associated with being socially isolated. A CDC research discovered that weak social ties were linked with a 29% greater risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
What's more, research has shown that people who have high-quality relationships live longer than those who don't. And when you're an older adult in the later stages of life, like your parents, quality relationships can help alleviate health problems such as depression or anxiety by providing support during stress or illness.
Why Is It Important for Your Aging Parents to Be Involved in Social Interaction?
Social interaction is necessary for maintaining the health of aging adults. The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that people older than 70 engage in at least six hours per week of social activities. The recommendation is to maintain their mental health and well-being.
As social interaction boosts mood, improves cognitive function, and reduces stress. Additionally, interacting with others helps you learn new things about them that could be useful later in life.
Find a Therapist
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 7 million American adults over 65 experience depression each year. The most common reason for depression can be social isolation. Thus, the sooner you do something, the better chance your parents have of feeling better and recovering from their illness. I suggest seeking professional help.
To find a therapist trained in senior care or who has experience with aging parents, we recommend asking friends or family members. You can also search online. Make sure that whoever you choose will work with you and your parents during sessions. They must update you regularly on progress, so there are no surprises along the way.
Give Them Access to Adaptive Technology
According to the WHO-UNICEF Global Report, over 2.5 billion people require at least one assistive products to stay connected, independent, and productive in their everyday lives.
Adaptive technology can help your aging parents remain safe at home and engaged in the community. With the right tools, they can still grocery shop, walk around the block and visit friends’ houses.
Suppose they have limited mobility or vision issues. In that case, adaptive technology such as wheelchair ramps or smart doorbells can help them get outside safely. They won’t have to ask anyone for assistance when they leave their homes.
Consider assistive technology if you’re looking for ways to give your aging parents greater autonomy around their home environment while reducing their social isolation.
Arrange Transportation for Them
You can help your aging parents by arranging transportation for them. However, you should keep them from giving them access to a car at this point in their lives.
It has been established that drivers over 70 had a greater crash mortality rate per 1,000 collisions than middle-aged drivers (aged 35-54). This is due to decreased reaction time and the inability to judge speed and distance, as well as younger drivers, do.
Make sure they have access to public transportation or taxi services to get around safely when necessary. Ask friends or family members to drive them around if they travel frequently. And if money isn’t an issue, get them a car and a full-time personal driver.
Explore Community Resources
Community resources can include churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Many seniors are active in their local churches and synagogues. For those who don't attend services regularly, getting involved in community service projects may give them a sense of purpose and belonging that they miss from the church community.
In addition to religious organizations, there are many other types of communities, like senior centers, recreational facilities, and community centers. These are especially helpful for aging adults. These offer a wide variety of activities for seniors to participate in regularly.
And if you're caring for an aging parent with limited mobility or memory loss who needs transportation assistance, remember local libraries. They often have programs geared toward older adults, such as reading groups or volunteer opportunities at local libraries where your parent can use their skills while feeling useful again.
Encourage Them to Pick a Hobby
Encourage your loved one to pick a hobby. Hobbies are an excellent way for older adults to meet new people and stay active. They can also help keep their mind active, which is very important as we age. Gardening is a trendy hobby among older generations, with 47 percent of those over 65s saying they participated in it, as per a study by Statista.
If you're looking for more ideas on hobbies that could be suitable for your parent(s), here's a list of some activities that may appeal to them:
- And many more
Helping your aging parents cope with social isolation is not easy, but it's well worth the effort. You may feel overwhelmed when you first begin this process, but as long as you stay patient and willing to help them adjust, you can help your aging parents overcome their feelings of loneliness.
The key to helping your aging parent cope with social isolation is communicating and understanding them constantly. This means keeping in touch with them regularly through phone calls or emails. They will feel good knowing someone cares about them and wants to hear what's going on in their life.
It also means getting involved in their lives by taking them out for dinner or visiting them at home once a week. This way, both parties will be reminded some people care about them enough not just to leave things alone forever after retirement age has set in.
You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to show up. If you approach this situation with patience and care, your efforts will be rewarded tenfold.