Limited social interaction and chronic isolation at age 60 can have adverse outcomes on the cognitive health and emotional wellbeing of adults 60 and older. In fact, a recent report published in the journal Plos Medicine suggests that social interaction may provide some protection against dementia. According to the report, University College London researchers in the United Kingdom found that a higher frequency of social interaction at 60 was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. In a previous study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers found that loneliness and depression may be contributing factors to mental decline in older adults.
Increased isolation can have a long-term negative impact on older adults, including family members who are often the primary caregivers for older spouses or parents. As the family caregiver’s responsibilities increase in providing care for an older adult with a progressive illness, so does the risk of becoming more isolated from others, especially when other family members and friends are no longer in the immediate area.
Social relationships are often limited as older adults enter their retirement years. Generally, social dynamics are modified when individuals leave the workforce. More specifically, when retirees leave the workforce, a social void is often created.
Relationships and outside activities are also affected when a retiree becomes a full-time family caregiver for a senior spouse or an elderly parent. As family caregivers take on new added responsibilities, they too can become isolated from other family members and long-time friends.
Fortunately, older adults, retirees, and family caregivers can take steps to help minimize the impact of social isolation by adding weekly activities that foster social interaction.
Activities that foster social interaction
- Join a local choir. Taking part in choir practice and attending musical presentations can enhance working memory, improve focus, and increase opportunities for social interaction. If you are interested in joining a chorale for adults 50 and older, you may want to consider the Young at Heart Chorale, which is sponsored by the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. The membership fee is $50.00 per semester, but auditions are not required! For more information, please visit the organization’s website at https://bachfestivalflorida.org/community/young-at-heart-chorale/
- Learn how to play a musical instrument by signing up for music lessons. If you already know how to play a musical instrument but haven’t played in a while, invite family and friends over to join you while performing some favorite tunes. Taking music classes, playing a musical instrument in a group setting, or practicing with a local band increases social interaction and helps foster a sense of belonging and acceptance.
- Participate in group exercise activities at a local gym or senior center. Group exercise activities not only promote physical wellbeing but also increase opportunities for social interaction and teamwork. If walking is your main interest, try joining a local walking club. Also, enlist a dependable family member, friend, or caregiver to keep you company on daily walks at a favorite park or local walking trail.
We hope this information helps you and your loved ones find ways to increase social interaction and help reduce senior isolation and loneliness.
Is there a senior in your life who needs home health care services? Give us a call and find out how Senior Helpers can make a difference! Call us at (407) 915-0862! Senior Helpers Orlando provides Alzheimer’s and dementia care and home health care services in the counties of Orange, Osceola, and Seminole.
Ana P. DeLane
Senior Helpers Team Member
Association of social contact with dementia and cognition: 28-year follow-up of the Whitehall II cohort study; Plos Medicine; published Aug. 2, 2019; retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002862
Loneliness, depression and cognitive function in older U.S. adults; International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry; published originally May 9, 2016; retrieved September 12, 2019, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/gps.4495
Young at Heart Chorale; Bach Festival Society of Winter Park; retrieved Sept. 12, 2019, from https://bachfestivalflorida.org/community/young-at-heart-chorale/