As people enter into their senior years — 55 and up — they often become limited in their mobility or their ability to take care of themselves without help. Because of this, many of them opt for senior care communities. These communities are also well known for being accommodating to seniors who are in good health.
While many services are available to those who prefer to age in place, it should be noted that aging at home frequently leads to social isolation. Many studies, including the 2009 National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, have shown again and again that social isolation is detrimental to a senior’s health. When isolation takes place, this results in minimal physical activity as well as gaps in positive mental and emotional health. Keeping all of this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the importance of social engagement in senior care communities.
Preventing Social Disconnectedness
In today’s society, everyone is staying connected with one another via digital methods, including the Internet. Seniors, although often a bit behind when it comes to being technologically-savvy, have the same desire as everyone else to be connected, and this is exactly what senior care communities provide. From access to computers to social gatherings, these communities are centered around deterring the social disconnectedness that readily occurs in seniors’ lives.
Keeping Residents Healthy
Normal changes in the brain occur all throughout life, and as a person gets older, these changes commonly lead to confusion and memory issues. Some people suffer from extensive memory loss, which is medically referred to as having dementia. Keeping the mind stimulated, however, has been proven to ward off dementia as well as depression. One of the best ways to stimulate the mind is through social engagement. The Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center conducted a study and discovered that seniors who were highly social enjoyed a 70 percent lower rate of cognitive decline when compared to seniors who were less social. Even social engagement through the Internet — video messaging, instant messaging, chat rooms, email, etc. — was found to reduce depressive symptoms by 30 percent.
Types of Social Engagement in Senior Care Communities
There are many types of social engagement that can take place within senior care communities. All communities will do well to implement a volunteer program, which can include everything from kitchen work to landscaping. Door greeters are also excellent volunteer positions that all senior communities should consider developing.
Community events should be hosted, too. From movie night to pot luck dinners and even grief counseling, these events can be extremely valuable for the social interaction that takes place among residents. It’s also ideal to host digital education classes. Many seniors will enjoy learning about today’s latest technologies for staying in contact with their loved ones. And this brings us to the importance of having a computer lab set up for those who don’t have computers in their rooms.
With healthy levels of social engagement, senior care communities can cultivate healthier residents.