There has been significant research on the importance of socialization to improve seniors' mental and emotional health. But what can you do when your loved one is in an assisted living community to ensure that they are meeting socialization goals? Here are six ways you can help your family member stay social and engaged while they are in a senior living community.
1. Look for Signs of Isolation
It can be challenging for seniors to admit that they feel lonely and want to make new connections. It can also be the case that older adults who are new to senior living communities may want to avoid interacting with others instead of isolating themselves. You can help your loved one avoid this social slump by looking for signs of isolation, including:
- Loss of interest in activities that used to excite them
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss or gain
- A decline in cognitive functions
- Self-loathing or a drop in self-worth
If you see some of these signs, it might be a signal that you should start encouraging your loved one to talk with neighbors and interact with staff members more regularly.
2. Recommend Exercise
You can help your loved ones socialize by encouraging them to exercise and partake in group activities. Not only do these give your family member a chance to interact with others, but exercise can improve self-worth and self-image in seniors. Improving self-image can be a step towards seniors wanting to motivate themselves to socialize more with others.
There are many different exercise and activity groups for seniors, including groups for older adults with limited mobility. More mobile seniors may enjoy outdoor activities, which are great for meeting others. Sports like golfing and bowling are group activities and can help seniors make new connections. Even a walk in the park can help seniors get out of their senior living home and in a place where they can socialize with others.
3. Find Groups and Clubs to Join
Another way for seniors to interact with others is to find clubs to join. Clubs and groups can provide weekly or monthly times where your loved one has scheduled social interactions. Being part of a club or group can help seniors feel motivated to go out and engage with others.
Clubs can also help seniors meet new people out of their regular network of friends and family. Examples of clubs many seniors enjoy:
- Book clubs
- Music groups and choirs
- Movie viewing groups
- Food and dining groups
- Birdwatching groups
- Gardening clubs
- Senior sports teams
4. Help with Transportation
A significant barrier for seniors is getting to the places where they have a chance to interact with others. Offering transportation and rides to events for your elderly loved ones is a great way to help them socialize.
Having a source of transportation can also help seniors feel more independent. When they have options for socialization beyond what is offered at their senior living home, they can feel more comfortable exploring places and groups that otherwise would be unavailable to them.
5. Encourage New Hobbies
Finding new things to do can help seniors want to get out and socialize with more people. A new hobby requires learning and cognitive thinking, which alone is an excellent exercise for seniors. In addition, seniors may need to gather further information from others with the same hobby, which provides another way for seniors to meet others and socialize.
Most hobbies aren't limited to specific age groups, expanding an older adult's social circle beyond the friends and family they already are familiar with. Having new sources of excitement can also stop a loved one's descent into social isolation.
6. Explain Social Apps and Technology
Technology provides a great platform for seniors to be able to make new friends, connect, and interact with others. It may be difficult for older adults to understand how to utilize technology and social apps, so you can help out by being patient and clearly explaining technology such as:
- Apps like Facebook and Skype can help seniors stay in contact with distant friends— along with seeing what the grandkids are up to in daily life.
- Lyft and Uber can help your senior loved one travel around town if you live far away to help provide rides.
- Online games like Words with Friends can help seniors meet new people without having to leave home.
While technology is an excellent way for seniors to connect and stay in touch with people, help them understand internet safety as well, by allowing your loved ones to stay active on social media, you can help them avoid isolation even if you are unable to visit often.
Seniors need socialization for more than just making friends. Socializing can help seniors avoid isolation and depression. Interacting with others can also help seniors maintain their cognitive functions. You can help your loved ones stay healthy for longer by encouraging and helping them with their socialization skills.