10 Things to be Aware of to Keep Seniors Happy During the Cold, Lonely Months
The long, cold winter months puts a damper on senior citizens – especially those living alone. It can be a real problem, causing concern for their emotional, mental and even physical heath. The disturbing feeling of being trapped inside, unable to leave because of the weather, can overcome a person with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
The Effects of Isolation in the Elderly
Many seniors find themselves alone after their spouse passes, or after family moves away or they’re too busy to visit. This social isolation causes problems with their well-being.
If seniors are not staying socially connected it can lead to increased blood pressure, dementia, more falls, depression, and overall poor physical and mental health.
What Can You Do If Your Loved One Is Feeling Isolated?
It’s not necessarily that they are isolated, but that they are feeling like they are isolated, lacking social engagement and face-to-face connections with others. If they are experiencing health issues like hearing loss, vision loss, or incontinence, this may increase this sense of isolation. Here are some tips to ensure your loved one isn’t feeling isolated this winter:
Visit often. Many seniors look forward to seeing family, so you need to visit as often as you can, even if you don’t live nearby. Try to schedule a few times to visit - especially during the winter months.
Reach out to neighbors. If it’s absolutely impossible for you to visit as often as you would like, ask for help from your loved one’s friend or neighbor. Ask them to stop by once a week or so to check in and visit.
Join a senior center. Many towns have senior centers available that seniors can join. These community centers give seniors the opportunity to connect with each other and enjoy the programs and events offered at the center throughout the year.
Exercise daily. A few minutes of physical activity every day can help improve ward off depression, increase your mobility and lessen the risk for falls!
Adopt a pet. A pet can offer constant companionship to an aging senior and can help reduce feelings of isolation. Choose wisely though – a dog is a lot of work, a cat may be a better option!
Use technology. Today’s technology allows us to have face-to-face conversations no matter how far away we live. Teaching video chat programs to seniors gives them a way to stay in touch with friends and family no matter how far away they may be.
Provide transportation. If your loved one is not very mobile, finding the right device to help them get around will help tremendously. Whether it’s a scooter, walker or cane, having a device to assist them with transportation will keep them from feeling isolated. It will help get to the store, go for a walk or visit a friend.
Encourage worship. Many seniors turn (or return) to religion as they age because they have more time for it. Encourage your loved one to revisit their religion. They may find it rejuvenates them and naturally brings them out of their isolation.
Schedule Food Delivery. Seniors are at greater risk of having poor nutrition when they live alone - especially during the winter. Perhaps you can consider getting food delivered by Meals on Wheels or an online grocery store. Not only will they receive the food, but will also get a brief social interaction from the delivery person.
Tackle Health Issues. Making sure your loved one feels good on a day-to-day basis is important and will help with their social interaction. Make sure they have enough supplies and medications for their health problems, so that they’re not forced to stay home because of their problem.
Avoiding senior isolation isn’t impossible during the winter months, but it does take some work. Just remember to follow the above tips and spring will be here soon!