Humans are, by nature, social beings. The fact that humans depend on one another to thrive has helped us build communities and create meaningful relationships with friends and family. There are benefits to remaining social throughout the entire course of a person’s life, regardless of age.
Socialization is another key component to healthy aging, in addition to a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine. In fact, social isolation can actually be both a sign and risk factor for bigger problems. Lonely seniors are at a much greater risk of elder abuse, early mortality and other serious health threats.
The Rise in Lonely Seniors
According to a recent study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, 43 percent of seniors feel alone on a regular basis. This rise in lonely seniors is, in part, caused by more and more seniors living alone. Approximately 12.5 million of non-institutionalized seniors live alone, according to a report by the Administration on Aging.
The increase in seniors living alone is compounded by the fact that a third of adults between the ages of 45 to 63 are single, and that 19 percent of women aged 40 to 44 have no children. Resulting in the “elder orphan” phenomenon, 22 percent of Baby Boomers will not have any family members to care for them as they age, increasing their odds of social isolation.
Limited mobility and sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing loss, are two other factors that cause loneliness. When diagnosed with a sensory impairment, seniors might not be as willing to leave their homes because they are embarrassed by their limitations, or they are simply not aware of the tools available to help them.
How Loneliness Affects the Elderly
Regardless of the reason, social isolation causes serious health risks for the elderly. Lonely seniors are much more likely to experience the following:
- Early mortality
- Decreased mobility
- Cognitive decline
- Elder abuse
- Lung disease
- High blood pressure
Luckily, there are plenty of programs and activities for seniors available to help them socialize with others, whether they are homebound or not.
Activities for Seniors that Fight Loneliness
None of us like feeling lonely, and loneliness has been proven to greatly decrease older adults’ quality of life. Fortunately, there are lots of different activities for seniors to enjoy together, whether they are homebound or not.
Here are some simple ways you can fight loneliness and socialize with others:
- Look for programs in your community. Community centers often offer organized classes and events for seniors in the surrounding area--simply stop in to pick up a schedule in order to figure out which activities you’d like to try. Senior day care programs are another great option. Similar to community centers, senior day care programs are specifically designed to offer social activities for seniors, such as crafts, cooking, games and gardening.
- Find an exercise partner. Creating an exercise routine with a friend or family member is one of the best activities for seniors. Not only is this a great way to socialize with others, but having a strong fitness routine will also help you maintain your independence. Plus, having a workout partner will keep you motivated and help you stick to your regimen. And it doesn’t have to be rigorous. Simply finding a buddy who will take a walk with you for 30 minutes several times a week could do the trick! Another option is to check with your local senior day care program to learn if they offer any exercise classes.
- Create a buddy system. You don’t have to go far out of your comfort zone to socialize. Make some new friends in your neighborhood, or perhaps reach out to old friends to see if they would like to join you for dinner. Organize a weekly meal at a nearby restaurant or a weekly game night to share some laughs to build a stronger sense of community.
- Take a class. To combat the cognitive decline that typically accompanies loneliness, brain-stimulating activities like taking classes at a local community college are a great option. You might be surprised to find that your local community college or junior college actually offer special classes and curriculums for seniors. This one is a double bonus because not only will you be learning new things, you’ll also have the opportunity to make like-minded friends.
- Volunteer. Not only is it a great way to give back, but volunteering also comes with many health benefits. Seniors who volunteer have been shown to experience fewer functional limitations, fewer symptoms of depression and longer life expectancy.
- Use Uber to your advantage. Seniors may be hesitant to use Uber, but Uber is becoming popular among the 26 million seniors who rely on others for mobility. It’s easy to use, affordable, and will allow you to meet up with friends with ease.
- Don’t forget about a man’s best friend! In addition to providing companionship, pets also help improve seniors’ cognitive function, stress levels, blood pressure and heart rate. A dog can be especially helpful because they are guaranteed to take you out of the house for walks, where you are sure to connect with other dog owners!
Staying Safe While Socializing
While engaging in activities for seniors that promote socialization, the key is finding the right activity for you. You won’t get the most out of the time you’re spending with others if you’re not doing an activity that you particularly enjoy.
The best part about owning a Mobile Guardian medical alert device is that you can receive help no matter where life takes you. Which means that you are guaranteed to have access to help whether you have a quiet night in with a friend, or are out in the neighborhood for a long walk with your dog.