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The importance of social connections for seniors

The importance of social connections for seniors

Why home care is more than just a cup of tea

The importance of social connection for seniors

If the COVID-19 lockdowns taught us one thing, it was how much we all need social connection. It helps us feel a sense of belonging and can even improve wellbeing across our lifespan.

Social connection is central to human evolution and has increased the survival of our species as we have learned to share resources like food, shelter and protection.

Here we outline why social connection is so important, particularly for older people, along with some ways you or your loved one can easily boost social connections.

Why social connection for seniors is so important

When we’re younger and busy at work, with kids or doing activities with our partner, social connection is constant. But as we age, things change.

The kids leave home and become busy with their own lives. We retire from work and don’t have that day-to-day connection with colleagues. Relationships end or sadly, one spouse passes away before the other.

Before you know it, you’re on your own most of the time and feeling socially isolated and perhaps even lonely. Social connection is extremely important, particularly for seniors.

One study found engagement with community groups and family and friends can reduce cognitive decline. Others have found that loneliness or being socially isolated can put people at risk for heart disease, stroke and even premature mortality. It’s even comparable with risk factors like a lack of physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, poor mental health, injury and violence.

Loneliness and social isolation isn’t uncommon for older people. One European study found that 39% of elderly people they surveyed experienced loneliness. Another study reported that 50% of people aged over 60 are at risk of social isolation and one-third will experience loneliness later in life.

So now we know how important it is, how can we increase social support for the elderly?

Tips to stay connected with your community

Tip 1: Start close to home

Often in life, we can get focused on looking inward. When we’re trying to build social connections, it’s important to look outward and connect with those around us. Start with your neighbours. Is there anyone you haven’t met in your street? Are there people you see time and time again on your daily walk?

Reach out to these neighbours and say hello. You could even do something kind, like make some muffins for a new neighbour or offer to collect someone’s mail while they’re on holidays.

Having good neighbours means there’s always someone to chat to over the fence and you have people to call on in cases of emergency (or when you need that cup of sugar!).

Tip 2: Join a new club

One sure-fire way to make social connections is by starting a new activity. This is a great way to meet people with like-minded interests and you may even learn a new skill.

You could try a class where you learn something new like macrame, mosaics or knitting. You could join a book club at the local library. You could do something active like yoga or aqua aerobics. If you’re not sure where to start, visit your local senior or community centre for ideas.

Tip 3: Reach out to an old friend

Maybe it was a colleague you used to work with? Or perhaps it was a woman who you met during your child’s early years, but you drifted apart. Whatever it is, you could try to reconnect and see how they are.

You could say something like “I had a funny thought the other day about that time we worked together. It made me realise how long it’s been since we’d been in touch. How are you?”

They may be just as happy to hear from you and it might spark a wonderful friendship. But if not, it doesn’t matter. You can try again with someone else.

Tip 4: Volunteer

Volunteering can be a wonderful way to not only meet new people but to feel a sense of purpose. You could start with a few hours a week and build it up if you want.

Volunteer opportunities could be anything from animal welfare to raising money for charity to helping the most vulnerable people in your community. Look at some opportunities at Seek Volunteer.

Tip 5: Join Five Good Friends

Companionship is one of the top five services we deliver at Five Good Friends. But social support for the elderly is more than just a cup of tea. We match our Members and Helpers so they can build real and genuine connections.

Not only do we come around to your house to spend time with you, but we can also help you access community events so you can build even more social connections. At Five Good Friends, we know how important friendship is and we want to keep you engaged with your community and help you live the life you desire.

If you’d like to know about how we can help with social support for the elderly, please get in touch. Our friendly team is on hand to chat about how we can help.

Learn more: What you need to know about ageing in place

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