While there is a lot of advice out there about how to stay healthy as we age, the importance of maintaining meaningful relationships is often overlooked. According to The University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, more than a third of seniors surveyed said they sometimes experience a lack of companionship, with many also acknowledging feelings of isolation. During these times we are co-existing with Covid-19, this is much more prevalent especially for seniors being the most at risk group to the disease. Establishing positive social relationships with friends and family is vital to a person’s physical, mental and emotional health. No matter what stage of life you are in, devoted friendships can have a real impact on overall quality of life and health. In fact, research suggests adults who remain socially active as they age often experience more mental stimulation and even increased physical activity, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. While regular social interaction is beneficial at any age, research has shown older adults are particularly receptive to the positive effects of spending time with family and friends. Family members and friends can increase these interactions as easily as calling an older loved one more regularly during these in these times.
If your aging loved one has access to an iPad, laptop, desktop, tablet or even smartphone, having them jump on family Zoom meeting. My own 76-year-old Mom attended her first birthday party for a friend this month via Zoom! She so enjoyed this new experience which felt connected, inclusive and she was delighted in herself learning a new technology. She was so excited to get all dressed up put on her party clothes and jewelry to attended his birthday Zoom party! Additionally, there are countless ways for seniors themselves to remain socially active and create new friendships later in life, even during this pandemic.
Tips for seniors to stay socially active
Embrace passions. Reflect on your interests and consider ways to enjoy those pastimes with others. Many older adults find they have more free time, which is a perfect justification to immerse yourself in a favorite hobby. No matter what your passion is, there is likely a way you can share it with others and connect while doing it.
Stay active. Walking is a wonderful way to stay active. I enjoy seeing this older couple twice daily walk in the park across the street from my home with their masks and walkers. If this is an activity you can manage, perhaps incorporate it into your day. Once this pandemic permits, bring a friend as an accountability partner and use the time to build upon an existing relationship. If you’d prefer to stay closer to home, invite neighbors to join you on a leisurely stroll around the block. Again -once the pandemic permits such behavior.
Continue learning. You’re never too old to benefit from learning something new. Explore continued learning opportunities hosted at local civic centers or community colleges online during this time. There is a variety of classes – from literature and history to cooking and painting. For Mother’s Day I was gifted new online learning platform called Masterclass. I so enjoy this site which hosts 80 experts in their fields, on various topics. You can find it on masterclass.com if you are interested. Did you know right now too you can virtually visit so many museums online during the pandemic? I have also noticed an extraordinary assortment of new apps on my phone. Many offer free simple classic games you can play on your phone and ones that help calm the mind and body. All you need is WiFi and a device.
There are many ways older adults can form meaningful connections with others, or engagement whether through joining a Zoom call, finding a new hobby or attending an online class or the simple pleasure than comes from an old fashioned phone call. Find something you enjoy that allows you to create new relationships and maintain current ones. These connections can help everyone, especially seniors, on the path to a happy and healthy life.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.