by: Lois G. Tager, M. Ed., CSA
Director of Geriatric Care Management, Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
“Nobody relishes the prospect of aging without a spouse or family member at their side, without friends to help them laugh at the ridiculous parts and support them through the difficult times.” (Senior Living Blog)
Unfortunately, that is what many seniors face. Due to the lack of socialization, seniors are less able to contribute to their communities. Seniors who are involved in their communities through volunteering, socializing and sharing their wealth of knowledge benefit not only the community, but the senior as well.
The National Seniors Council reports that senior isolation can result in depression, social anxiety, loneliness, alcoholism, and schizophrenia and can cause the senior to become uncomfortable around other people. These behaviors can eventually lead to the loss of social skills, partly because of disuse, and partly because of the way that psychological symptoms can disrupt social behaviors.
The lack of transportation is a major issue and contributor to senior isolation. According to AARP, “life expectancy exceeds safe driving expectancy after age 70 by about six years for men and 10 years for women.” Yet, over 50% of seniors do not feel that the transportation support in their community is adequate. Having access to adequate public transportation or other transportation is key to senior participation in community activities and ensures feelings of being connected and independent.
While living alone does not always lead to social isolation, it is a predisposing factor. A senior’s social network can have a positive influence on good health and on healthy behaviors such as remaining active, walking, traveling and interacting with the community. When a senior is socially active, there is a positive correlation to good health. Conversely, when a senior is isolated, is sedentary, does not eat well, and/or smokes or drinks too much, there is a higher likelihood of falls and four-to five times the risk of hospitalization.
Preventing social isolation and the resulting risk factors is vital for seniors and their families. Many organizations today are prioritizing what they can do to encourage seniors to remain active in their communities. Numerous senior centers offer meals and exercise programs designed for seniors. Senior housing communities offer exceptional opportunities for seniors to reach out to one another, participate in activities such as dancing, musical entertainment, educational programs and much more. Community colleges and universities offer classes for seniors about travel and history, and hands-on classes such as pottery, photography and jewelry making.
Volunteers often report that volunteering “feeds the soul.” Volunteers are needed in hospitals, libraries, and senior centers. If you have a special skill or talent such as art, contact your local elementary school and offer your expertise. Think about what makes you happy and helping others will add to that joy and protect you from becoming lonely and isolated.
Follow this link for our “List of Resources for Senior Socialization Opportunities.”
ABOUT THE Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Roy W. Litherland is an attorney whose practice emphasizes elder law and estate planning. Roy has practiced law in the greater Bay Area for over 35 years and is certified as a legal specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Roy is a noted speaker on living trusts, Medi-Cal Planning, and estate planning. He is a member and designated Fellow of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, an organization that fosters excellence in estate planning.
Lois Tager, Director of Geriatric Care Management, holds a Masters in Education, specializing in counseling and psychotherapy from Providence College, a Bachelor of Science in Education from Boston University and is a Certified Senior Advisor and Geriatric Care Manager. She published “Sundown Syndrome: A Primer” in the CSA Journal of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, CSA Journal 46, 2010. Lois authored a column “Ask Lois” for the Alzheimer’s Association Monterey County Newsletter and wrote numerous articles. She is the author of the book “What To Do With Your Stuff: A Guide to Decisions About Personal Possessions and Life Choices,” a primer for baby boomers, seniors, and families.
The Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
- A “Goodbye” Message from Our Director of Geriatric Care Management - May 4, 2016
- The Dangers of Social Isolation (An Elder Law Today Blog) - February 11, 2016
- Sundown Syndrome: How to Help (an Elder Law Today blog) - February 19, 2015