As we get older and begin the later stages of life, there is a lot to consider regarding independence. Health conditions or simply age may impact a person’s ability to live alone and care for themselves effectively. Some families may have a live-in nurse or caretaker, have another member of the family move in to assist with care, or transition their loved one into a senior living community.
What Is a Senior Living Community?
Older adults who may struggle living alone may choose to live in a senior living community, also called an assisted living community. These are facilities where aging adults can live together in apartment-style rooms; depending on the facility, they might reside alone or with a roommate.
Different facilities are equipped to provide different levels of health care services. Some focus solely on maintaining independence and improving the quality of life for aging adults. Others offer specialized services, including memory care and therapy services (like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy).
Experiencing Isolation in a Senior Living Community
One of the largest benefits of senior living communities is the opportunities for socialization. Most communities offer built-in opportunities for social interaction, which might include:
- Restaurant-style dining
- Hobby groups
- Outdoor activities
- Shared living arrangements
A common pitfall for families, however, is assuming that their loved one can’t experience isolation when they live in a community. Assisted living offers opportunities for socialization, but these are generally voluntary and may be limited depending on the facility. Even having a roommate doesn’t guarantee that a senior won’t experience isolation or loneliness.
Health Risks from Lack of Socialization
Senior living communities do not encourage social engagement just for fun—it’s also a key part of healthy aging. Loneliness or isolation in older adults is linked to higher rates of poor physical and mental health, plus a higher likelihood of suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, hypertension, anxiety, coronary artery disease, depression, and cardiac failure. Limited socialization may also increase unhealthy habits such as smoking tobacco and physical inactivity.
Aging adults are a vulnerable population when it comes to mental health. Experiencing isolation or loneliness can contribute to depression, which can further negatively impact physical health. Depression can worsen existing health conditions, such as chronic illness, and even raise mortality rates.
Senior Isolation: How You Can Help
If you suspect your loved one is feeling isolated or lonely in their community, first attempt to talk to them about it. Ask them whether they feel alone, if they have friends, if they wish they had more visitors, or if they want help engaging with their facility’s activities.
With your loved one’s permission, communicate with the facility’s staff and let them know how your loved one is feeling—they may be able to help find or create activities your loved one may be interested in and encourage them to actively participate. Encourage your loved one’s other family members and friends to visit the community more often. If distance is an issue, try organizing one-on-one or group video calls.
If your loved one’s assisted living community simply doesn’t offer enough activities or social benefits, you may even consider searching for a new facility that has a higher focus on social engagement opportunities.
Benefits Of Social Engagement for Healthy Aging
Just as there are negative health consequences for loneliness and isolation, there are positive health benefits for social engagement and activity. Older adults with a mentally and physically active lifestyle are often happier, less likely to develop certain diseases, better prepared to cope with life’s complications, and may even have a longer lifespan and improved memory and cognitive ability. Socialization cultivates a sense of fulfillment and positivity that contributes to overall well-being, especially as a part of healthy aging.
Social Activities Are a Part of Active Aging
Choosing the right senior living community for your loved one is an important undertaking, and it’s vital that you trust the staff and the community to provide a positive experience that engages them both physically and mentally.
If you’re in search of such a community, explore what we offer at The Good Shepherd Community. We understand that socialization is not a luxury but a healthcare necessity for active aging. Contact us to learn more about the social activities, physical health care, and amenities we offer.