Humans are social creatures. Spending time with friends and family is not only enjoyable, but it is also essential to our health. In fact, this Forbes article cited research showing that low social interaction is as bad (or worse) for your health as being an alcoholic, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, becoming obese, or never exercising.
As people age, some of them lose the ability to do the activities they used to enjoy. Perhaps they can no longer play tennis or drive across town to meet up with friends for a card game or a cup of coffee. Meanwhile, some of their friends are staying home more often, too. Less mobility can lead to older adults spending more and more time alone.
This social isolation has some serious adverse effects on health including:
- Increased risk of depression
- Higher stress
- Increased inflammation in the body
- A high risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, cancer, and even death
Harvard Medical School sums it up like this: "Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer."
So how can you ensure that your parent or aging family member can maintain their social life to the benefit of their health? Here are some ideas:
If possible, regular calls and visits from family members are a great start. Not only will your parent enjoy speaking with you, the grandchildren, and other relatives, but it also gives you an opportunity to monitor how he or she is doing. When you are in regular contact, you are more likely to notice changes in mood or behavior that may indicate loneliness or depression.
Get Social (Media)
Social media is fun for older adults, as well, and it gives them an easy way to stay connected with family and friends both old and new.
If your parent can no longer drive, being confined to the home is isolating, and can be a devastating blow to his or her independence. If possible, research bus schedules or arrange for someone to pick them up for their favorite activity or community gathering.
Encourage Hobbies and Interests
It is never too late to pursue a new hobby or learn a new skill. Not only will this help your parent keep his or her mind sharp, but it will also introduce new people into their life.
Quality, Not Quantity
A close relationship with one or two friends can be more beneficial than visits with a dozen acquaintances.
Consider Communal Living
A senior living community can provide all of this and more. Residents get to know their neighbors very well: they share meals, activities, and a friendly face is always right down the hall. Close friendships can develop because it is easy to spend time together.
Franklin Park Senior Living communities offer games, crafts, woodworking, libraries, religious services, fitness rooms, and pools with classes like water aerobics. There are also guest speakers and other special events designed to bring residents together and learn something new. There's no shortage of activities to keep even the most active senior busy.
If your parent can no longer safely drive, that is okay. Scheduled transportation can take them to and from appointments and errands. Meanwhile, there's so much to do right there within the community, including on-site shopping, dining, and business centers, your parent might not even want to leave very often!
The presence of the other community members allows you to rest assured your parent is getting plenty of social interaction, even when you cannot be there. A high quality of life is something we all want for our aging relatives, and a senior living community like Franklin Park can help provide that.