Loneliness and social isolation are two of the growing health concerns families and doctors have in regard to the elderly. While feeling lonely is no fun, feeling isolated from friends, family and acquaintances not only affects mental well-being but physical health also.
Keeping Seniors Socially Active
The younger generations are very good at communicating with each other via the Internet, social media and texting. But the older folks in our lives need to also stay in the loop in order to feel wanted, loved and needed. Friends play a vital part in how we stay connected. Senior centers throughout the US are very good at entertaining and keeping the older folks busy and connected to each other. They offer games, movies, exercise classes, crafts and meals and transportation to the center. They also have computers and classes on how to use the Internet for people who want to learn how email and Skype works to communicate with grandkids that live across the country. Keeping seniors active keeps them from becoming lonely and feeling isolated.
The Affects of Feeling Lonely and Socially Isolated
Depression is one of the main affects of feeling lonely and socially isolated. When a person loses their spouse, they tend to stay home and not go out. The spouse may have been the one person who would encourage going out, visiting friends, taking trips to visit family or inviting people over. But when that person is gone, the survivor is left alone. Depression sets in which leads to over eating or not eating at all, drinking too much, smoking, high blood pressure, heart disease and even perhaps early death.
How To Keep the Elderly From Becoming Socially Isolated
When you touch someone, like holding their hand, rising blood pressure slows and becomes a little more normal. Touch feels good. It reminds us that we are alive and need to feel connected to one another. Studies show that lack of affectionate physical contact causes stress hormones to rise. Social contact is important in keeping stress levels down and it plays an important role in helping to keep older people healthy. The expression a smile a day keeps the doctor away is a good adage for everyone to remember. Read more on senior health here.
Those who are older than 80 have mentioned that getting out of the home and into a senior exercise class was more beneficial to them socially than physically. In the class, they are able to see friends whom they may have missed. They reconnected to people, and benefitted both socially and physiologically from the class. Feeling better is always a good thing for people over 70 and even more so for those 80 and above. Exercising gives them the resources they need to maintain good balance which prevents falls and therefore fractures. It helps build strength so they can move around better. It builds confidence so they can feel good about going out and being more active with friends and acquaintances, which in turn can prevent an early death. And this is why it is so vital to help the seniors in our lives stay as connected to the people in their lives as possible.