Have you ever felt isolated? Maybe you had a surgery or illness that left you bedridden for weeks at a time. Or perhaps you live in a new city and don't know anyone. There are many different ways we can become isolated, and as many of us fall into our routines, we might not realize how lonely we truly are.
Isolation is dangerous and exactly what it sounds like: cut off from the outside world with little to no human interaction. Prisons use this tactic as a controversial form of punishment. So why do we do it to ourselves and how do we get out of the rut? And why is this so dangerous for seniors?
Some aging adults don't have the choice to leave their home, and this is very common. If a senior has mobility issues, cognitive decline, or can't drive, they have no choice but to stay at home. Some families visit a couple of times a week, which is great and very needed, but a couple of hours a day around people doesn't make up for all the days spent alone. Isolation is not only extremely lonely but dangerous. Depression can set in, and when that happens, seniors can decline at a more rapid rate than if they were happy and socialized.
How to Help - Top 5 List
#1 Change the Scenery
Get out of the house. A short walk can help, or even sitting on the porch. Anything besides sitting in a favorite chair in the living room in front of the TV can help.
Most of us can shop online- it might even be your preferred way to buy. But a lot of seniors do not shop online due to simply not liking it or finding it difficult to navigate the internet productively. Taking your loved one, or a senior you know who struggles with isolation, to the store can allow them to have a new change of scenery, add something active to their schedule for the day, and give them a chance to shop!
#3 Exercise classes
There are numerous exercise classes available for seniors! If mobility is an issue, the programs often provide opportunities for seniors to complete workouts from a chair. A simple Google search in your area can find something, or check out your local YMCA or senior center for options.
#4 Become a Volunteer
In Knoxville, TN, there is a great program called The Seniors Companion Program. This program allows seniors to help other seniors who are low income and cannot afford traditional care. While monetary compensation is low, the overall payout can be priceless. Helping someone, especially those who cannot otherwise afford care, can provide a sense of purpose. If you do not live in Knoxville, contact your local Office on Aging to see what programs are available in your area.
#5 Hire a Caregiver
The easiest way to combat isolation is hiring a caregiver to offer companionship. Just having someone sitting with you while you watch TV, or someone to chat with can ultimately create considerable strides in combating isolation and depression. Plus, this gives your loved one the freedom they desire to leave home to run errands, or just go to Cracker Barrel for some dumplings.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that living a happy and fulfilled life can help your loved ones can combat depression, offer cognitive stimulation, give them a sense of purpose, and get them off that couch! So call your senior center, hire a caregiver, or go for chair yoga at your local YMCA. Your loved ones are the BEST, so let's get them the help they need and deserve!