Human beings are social creatures. We need other people to share a story or a joke, unload our feelings, or give us a hug. That sense of belonging we get from our place in a social group, neighborhood, or community is essential to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Belonging allows us to feel safe, increases our feelings of self-worth, and reduces anxiety and stress.
Socializing improves memory and cognition in older adults and strengthens the immune system. Despite its numerous benefits, maintaining a social life can be difficult, especially for those who live alone. Our social networks can begin to falter as loved ones pass on or friends move away. Physical limitations, memory issues, or illness can keep many at home and isolated. These challenges may require additional support to help loved ones maintain social connections.
Summer, with its longer daylight hours, can offer the perfect opportunity to get out and about. Help your loved one find activities that challenge them either physically or mentally while offering a social outlet.
A walking club, book club, Bible study, group exercise class, choir, knitting circle, dance group, or photography club can offer great opportunities for socialization and stimulation. Sharing the hobby with others improves satisfaction and quality of life.
Not sure where to start? Try calling or visiting one of the senior centers in the area such as Metro Louisville’s Senior Center (which includes Wilderness Road Senior Center) or Jewish Community Center. Each offers a variety of activities including yoga, cards, dance, cultural and educational clubs and events, and day trips.
Be sure to include your loved one when choosing a center or activity. The more comfortable they feel, the more fun they’ll have.
While in-person interaction is nice, there is a wide variety of virtual options that help families stay in touch. Video conferencing through Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or Google Meets allows you to both see and hear your loved one, and these platforms allow multiple family members to take part.
Facebook is extremely popular among those 65 and older, allowing them to share photos and updates with family and friends, and stay connected.
Those a little more tech savvy may enjoy Marco Polo. This video messaging app is a combination of FaceTime and texting, allowing you to record and send video messages that can be played later.
If reading a bedtime story to grandkids would appeal to your loved one, Readeo, with a selection of more than 150 children’s books, lets you read a story over video chat.
Most of these services are free or require a minimal charge to use. Make the most of these options by ensuring everyone is comfortable and knows how to use the platform, schedule a time when everyone is available to participate each week, and don’t be afraid to try more than one option.
Signs Your Loved One may need More Socialization
Social isolation can take its toll in a variety of ways. If your loved one is suffering from any of the following, more socialization may be needed to thrive. If you are unsure, consider having them evaluated by a professional.
- mood swings
- poor memory or recall
- poor hygiene
- fear of being alone or going outside
- lack of interest in activities
- sleeping more than usual
- not eating or eating very little
By Kym Voorhees Raque