Social connections provide health benefits for seniors

Social connections provide health benefits for seniors

Your senior parents may be among the 43 percent of adults 60 and older who are lonely.

While it might not sound serious, that feeling of isolation can lead to health issues such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain and sleep problems.

Understanding loneliness and how to prevent it is increasingly important — for your parents and for you.

One way to make sure they’re getting the connection they need is to have them become part of a community of friends and neighbors.

Maybe it means moving to an independent living apartment, assisted living residence or long-term care center. You can find all three at the Good Samaritan Society.

“When people bring loved ones to the Good Samaritan Society, there’s a social connection piece with families and staff that really sets us apart,” says Debbra Petersen, recreation well-being consultant for the Society. “We identify purposeful living to keep them engaged within a community.”

Meaningful relationships

A key focus in decreasing loneliness is providing meaningful activities and social programming that encourage community engagement and positive interactions, and the Society does it well.

“By assessing our residents’ needs and interests, we can determine areas of social connections,” Debbra says. “Many residents enjoy small groups, developing new interests together and relating to each other through similar experiences.”

Besides offering activities, staff members also encourage residents to stay connected with the outside community by becoming involved in church groups, business groups, veterans organizations and other local clubs.

Family members play a crucial role in encouraging their loved ones to get involved by finding hobbies that interest them and volunteer opportunities that match their skills.

Whether your parent lives on their own or in a Society location, you can start a tradition of weekly or monthly family dinners to encourage conversation and foster deeper connections.

If a parent has a hobby such as knitting, ask to be taught how to do it.

Another way to keep the lines of communication open is by sending monthly updates about your parents to other family members and encouraging them to regularly touch base with phone calls, letters and in-person visits.

Health care plays important role

Health concerns such as hearing and vision loss and fear of falls can lead to isolation and loneliness.

With a move to the Good Samaritan Society, those concerns can be alleviated by caregivers who provide customized care for residents.

Home health provides specialized services to help your loved one recover and return to the lifestyle they desire in their own home.

Whichever setting they live in, your loved one will benefit from regular checkups with a physician who can pinpoint risks to your parents’ health so they can address them.

Talk to your parents about the options and benefits of moving to a Society location or receiving home health services.

Technology offers added benefit

Technology isn’t a replacement for in-person contact, but it can help older adults feel closer to family members and friends.

You can introduce your loved one to the basic benefits of devices such as for video chatting, emailing, texting and sharing photos.

If your parents are willing to explore other technological outlets, set them up with basic social media profiles and teach them how to friend family members on social media.

“By leveraging technology with the use of tablet, smart phone and other devices, our Society locations can provide virtual visits with family and friends,” Debbra states.

And each location has a Send a note feature on the Society website to help loved ones and friends stay in contact with residents.

Benefits of remaining engaged

By staying physically, mentally and socially active in a community of friends and family members, your loved one can benefit from improved health, including:

  • Enhanced strength and flexibility
  • Increased cognition and physical ability
  • Enhanced well-being from reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-confidence and social engagement
  • Increased relaxation
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Increased energy levels
  • Lower blood pressure

If your loved one chooses the Good Samaritan Society, they’ll find caregivers who want to be part of their lives and help them stay socially engaged.

Moving to a Society location is where a new journey begins,” Debbra says. “We’re here for you to serve your loved one.” 

Source: University of California – San Francisco

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