May is Older Americans Month. It is a special time dedicated to focusing on the elderly in our lives and our communities, to improve their health and wellbeing, and integrate them better into our society. Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM provides ideas to help older Americans stay independent as well as various resources to help communities support and celebrate seniors nationwide.
According to the World Health Organization, social isolation has been recognized a determinant of health impacting as many as 17% of older adults around the globe. The 2019 Aging in America Conference will focus on this topic, reflecting on this month’s OAM theme, namely Connect, Create, Contribute. The spotlight is on social connection.
Let’s better connect to our elderly loved ones, and help bring families and friends together for our seniors. We can take steps to create lasting memories and encourage their personal growth. We all have something to contribute. Whether it’s our free time, emotional support, or our knowledge in computers, our seniors are happy to learn from us and can benefit greatly from our loving attention and care.
Let’s dive deeper in what we can do for our seniors this month. We can help them avoid social isolation, enhance their wellbeing, and create a stronger connection with the world around them.
Connect with the seniors in your life
Pay a visit
Whether your senior lives at home or in a retirement community, unfortunately loneliness is a significant part of their everyday life. Social disconnection is one of the major causes of mental decline and lower life satisfaction in the elderly. Now is the time to rebuild the bond. Your elderly relatives will appreciate the time you put into seeing them.
How often do you speak to your parents or grandparents? Do you live far away from each other? If you’re far, but would like a more personal touch to your time together that is not just a simple phone call, try a video call. It’s actually easier than you think.
Set up an app for your senior and you to connect on. We recommend something designed specifically for the elderly who may find it hard to use standard telecommunication apps. Oscar Senior, for example, was created for the less tech savvy in mind and therefore, is very accessible for anyone, young and old.
Seniors may need a lot of encouragement to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Mental and physical ailments may get in the way of their motivation. Isolated and lonely seniors especially may think that there is no point to challenging themselves.
Encourage physical activity
We all need to be active physically for our overall health. However, seniors may need extra motivation to get up and outside for a walk, a run, or anything which gets their heart pumping. First and foremost, it’s important to discuss your plans for physical activity with their doctor.
Especially for those pensioners who miss the social and routine activity of going to work every day, volunteering is a wonderful and productive way to give back to the community. From daycare centers to soup kitchens, the list is endless when it comes to volunteering opportunities. If your senior is not physically capable to do certain activities, perhaps they are good at mending clothes or pet-care, a helpful hobby which they can share with others.
Browse for social events
Loneliness in seniors is a global epidemic. As our fast paced, mobile lives are causing families to reach out to each other from a distance, seniors suffer the consequences. According to the National Institute of Aging, research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. Helping our seniors build social connections is life-saving.
Encourage your elderly relatives to look around in their communities for social engagements. You may find a community hall that hosts weekly card games, knitting circles, or salsa nights. If your seniors is housebound, they can discover online opportunities for socializing. Forums, chat rooms, and social media are all great options for connecting with long lost relatives or people who have similar interests.
Contribute to a purposeful life
The senior population has a huge resource of knowledge they can share with the world. However, their voice is often silenced. As an unfortunate result, we all lose out on the values, experience, and perspective they have gained over the years. As stated by the OAM theme, communities that encourage the contributions of older adults are stronger!
Let them share
Provide opportunities where your senior can share their life experience with others. Grandpa can relive some great memories from his childhood and grandkids can be entertained and even learn a thing or two!
Lonely seniors in particular need an attentive listening partner they can talk to from time to time. Seniors always have some fascinating, inspiring stories to tell. It’s mutually beneficial.
Be a teacher and a student
You may be an ace at computers or your grandma a whizz at cooking. Offer your time with grandma and find a way you can both enjoy an evening together. She’ll show you the secrets to baking that amazing pineapple upside-down cake. In turn, you can give her a few pointers on how to send an email to the local mayor that she’s been intending to do for months. We can all learn from each other!
Older Americans Month is ongoing and there is no time for us to hesitate when it comes to taking care of the seniors who are close to our families, who suffer from loneliness, and in general, who need help in one way or another. Our job is to show them ways they can contribute to the world, so they can relish in being productive members of society. Now is the time to act. Join the OAM observance and bring joy to the lives of our seniors.