4 Tips for Preventing Social Isolation

Help your loved one get involved in the community and enjoy the benefits of connecting with others

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- Posted on Jun 12, 2019

A caregiver and her mother meet a friend in their community.

Ashlee Williman is the Center Director at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging’s Paul W. Alandt Lakeshore Rose Center for Aging Well.

Staying connected with others is vital to your loved one’s health and happiness.

The AARP Public Policy Institute’s recent study “highlighted social isolation as the new silent killer – a major risk factor for a host of conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and early onset dementia.” Furthermore, AARP reports, “… nearly 1 in 5 Americans 65 and older are socially isolated”. 

There is much you can do to help your loved one avoid isolation, and thus lessen the risks that come along with it. Consider the following ideas to start getting him or her out and about and in touch with others: 

1. Check out a nearby senior center. A great place to begin is with a visit to your local senior center. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), “Almost 10,000 senior centers serve more than 1 million older adults every day. Senior centers serve as a gateway to the nation’s aging network—connecting older adults to vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.” Services offered can range from exercise classes to educational and art programs, congregate meals, benefits assistance, and, of course, socialization. Stop in with your loved one and go over the newsletter together to look for specific activities that appeal to him or her. You can also ask a staff member for advice on a good activity to start out with.

2. Find places to volunteer. There are many positives to volunteering. It allows your loved one to give back to the community, utilize important skills, share valuable gifts with other people and widen his or her circle of acquaintances. If your loved one shows an interest in volunteering, the two of you can begin by going to a local school, faith-based community, senior care organization, social service or volunteer agency to ask about opportunities.

3. Look for social clubs, faith-based groups, etc., that might fit your loved one. These groups can be an excellent avenue for connecting with others while sharing an interest, belief or hobby. It may be overwhelming for your loved one to try to find such an organization, so you can provide assistance by looking through your local newspaper, checking out flyers posted throughout the community or asking friends or family for recommendations. Additionally, Connect2Affect is an online resource that allows you to search for organizations and resources within your zip code. 

4. Encourage connection via technology. Communicating through social media, video chats or email, among other technological means, can be a great way for your loved one to stay in touch with friends and family members. Technology can be intimidating for many older adults, but there are community resources available to provide guidance. If you are unable to assist your loved one in using technology yourself, find out whether your local senior center or library offers computer classes to help your loved one dive into the waters. 

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