Why socialization is important in Assisted Living communities
Much like Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, social isolation and loneliness doesn’t occur based on gender, age, or whether you were married or single.
What does it mean to be socially isolated?
We have an abundance of technologies available at our fingertips to keep us connected with friends and family across the country. How is it that so many seniors are socially isolated when we have the ability to talk or even Facetime with them whenever we want? There is a difference between loneliness and social isolation and it may provide some insight into this question.
Let’s start with figuring out what it means to be lonely versus what it means to be socially isolated.
- Loneliness is a feeling with no measurable qualities- it focuses on how people are perceiving the current experience and if they feel isolated.
- Social Isolation involves quantifiable measurements such as the size of a social network and the frequency in which you engage with the network, availability of transportation, and the ability to access resources and information.
What does this mean for an individual; your mom, dad, friend or neighbor? Why is loneliness and isolation such a serious problem?
With modern medicine and technology, life expectancy has increased bringing benefits but also challenges as we age. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the number of people aging alone is expected to grow to 1 in 4 of the 76 million baby boomers. A study by AARP featured in the article found that 45% of seniors age 65 and over are separated or widowed and 46% of women 65 and over live alone. This study also looked at transportation and found that people are outliving their driving ability; men by an average of 6 years and women 10 years. When someone loses the ability to drive, not only do they lose a piece of independence, but it can create an additional barrier to overcome in the fight against isolation. The ability to maintain contact with friends, support groups and family becomes more difficult as they become less accessible.
While being lonely is a feeling influenced by your current situation, social isolation is often caused by multiple life events. Someone with poor physical or mental health or experiencing a major life change, like retiring or losing a loved one, may be more prone to social isolation. Other influences that may contribute to isolation are a lack of opportunity to engage with and contribute to society or losing the ability to drive.
Northbridge understands the importance of programming for all residents to encourage social interaction. We incorporate a variety of programs from intergenerational to art and baking to woodworking, we get to know our residents and create an environment for them to thrive. We consider the possible feelings of disconnect from today’s society and make sure everyone feels they have a purpose.
What can you do to help your loved ones? Become familiar and friendly with their neighbors and friends. Make sure they are comfortable enough with you to tell you if they start noticing any strange behaviors or if your loved one stops coming out to programs or events. Look into your options whether that be an adult day program or assisted living and remember no matter how old we are we need social interaction to continue to thrive.