Humans are social beings who thrive when sharing their lives with others. Social engagement is important throughout the lifespan and most people are able to find ways to remain socially engaged through work, school, family, and friends. Socializing can become challenging for older adults and there are many factors that contribute to a decline in social engagement including physical impairment, loss of a spouse and other close connections, absence of regular work, lack of transportation, and broken family ties. The seemingly effortless social interactions that many of us have on a day-to-day basis can be labor intensive for older adults.
Scientific research has shown that there is a direct connection between cognitive functioning and social engagement. Social engagement can help reduce occurrences of memory impairment, depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and physical pain. At Seniors Helping Seniors® of Greater Boston, we recognize the immeasurable value of social engagement and work with our caregivers to understand the importance of making social connections with the older adults that they work with.
Here are a few ways that caregivers can promote social engagement with the older adults in their lives:
Reminisce about their past experiences. What are some of the accomplishments that they are proud of? Where did their family come from? What unique experiences have they had?
Play games. Games are a fun way to keep engaged and can range in challenge from checkers to chess. Engaging in friendly competition can be a great way to connect. If physically possible, consider games that have an exercise component such as bowling or mini golf.
Explore passions and hobbies. Help them pursue their passions and get them reengaged in the hobbies that they once enjoyed. If they like music, take them to a concert or symphony, or just spend time listening music together. If they like art, take them to an art museum, browse through an art book, or work on an art project. The possibilities are endless!
Visit the local senior center. This can be a wonderful way to keep older adults engaged with peers and senior centers offer activities that are designed specifically for older adults.
Prepare a meal together. Cooking can be a fabulous social activity and sharing a meal is one of the most time treasured social events that people can do together!
Be present. When all else fails, your presence can be very engaging. Talking, watching TV together, and being present can help with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression.