The cold winter months can make things difficult for aging adults. Seniors are not only more vulnerable to illness and infection when the temperatures drop significantly, but the snow and ice can also make them more susceptible to falls and accidents.
One of the most significant effects winter can have on aging adults, however, is the increased risk for social isolation.
The Effects of Social Isolation in the Elderly
Humans are inherently social beings, and this doesn’t change as we grow older. However, many seniors find themselves living alone with no family close by, either due to a spouse passing away or grown children moving out of the area. Plus, today’s busy lifestyles don’t always allow family to visit their aging relatives as often as they may desire.
Seniors can face a variety of problems if they are not staying socially connected. Social isolation in the elderly can affect both a person’s health and well-being. Feeling isolated can lead to detrimental health effects in seniors, like increased blood pressure, a higher risk for dementia, more falls and hospital stays, and even can increase the risk of death. Feeling lonely can also lead to depression and poor physical and mental health.
Ways to Stay Socially Connected through the Winter
If you or your loved one is facing isolation this winter, there are steps you can take to ensure the feeling of loneliness doesn’t last long.
- Visit frequently. Even if you don’t live near your loved one, it’s important to try to schedule regular visits as often as possible. Many seniors look forward to family get-togethers, so try to plan a few events throughout the winter months to enjoy a family dinner and some good conversation. At the very least, call or email your loved one frequently to stay in touch.
- Reach out to neighbors or friends living nearby. If it’s impossible for you to visit as often as you would like to, ask for the assistance of the aging senior’s friends or neighbors. Ask neighbors to stop by once a week or so to check in.
- Join a senior community center. Many towns have senior centers available that offer a way for aging adults to connect with each other. They offer programs and events to keep seniors engaged throughout the year.
- Encourage daily exercise. A few minutes of physical activity every day can help improve your mood and ward off depression. Plus, exercise helps increase your mobility and can lessen the risk for falls.
- Consider pet adoption. A furry friend can help reduce feelings of isolation; a pet offers constant companionship to aging seniors.
- Utilize technology. Learning programs like Skype and video chatting gives seniors a way to stay in touch with friends and family no matter how far away they may be. Even if an in-person visit isn’t possible, the use of today’s personal communication technologies makes it possible to have face-to-face conversations.
Avoiding senior isolation during the winter months isn’t impossible. Just remember to take a few extra steps during these long winter days, and spring will be here before you know it.