Age can feel like a real barrier. With limited mobility, even small tasks can feel like big chores, and sometimes it isn’t easy to maintain social relationships. However, some cities are better for community building than others, and senior isolation may be a larger problem than you might think. Here is a look at the negative effects of isolation on seniors, and how they can avoid it through activities and where they choose to live.
As people age, especially over 65, the chance that they live alone increases. In 2010, 28 percent of people age 65 and older lived alone; that’s 11 million Americans. The AARP even reported that fewer adults have children and large families, which means fewer seniors have family members who can provide care and company. Of course, living alone doesn’t necessarily guarantee social isolation, but it does increase the risk. Statistics Canada found that 80 percent of seniors in Canada participate in weekly or monthly social events, but that still leaves a fifth of the country’s seniors without a broad social circle. Seniors who feel isolated can be at risk for decreased cognitive functions, dementia and depression.
Prevention starts with scheduling. For many seniors, if social interactions are not scheduled into their day or week, then they simply don’t socialize. These scheduled social interactions can be weekly game groups, like poker, bridge or chess. However, one of the struggles for many seniors is finding these kinds of groups. The Internet has made this much easier. MeetUp.com makes it easy for anyone to find groups of interest. Whether it’s a book club, philosophy group or film society, connecting with like-minded people has never been easier.
Social interactions can hinge on location. Seniors who live in cities that don’t have a community feel might find it challenging to make friends and find local events. Certain cities are made of small neighborhoods; Philadelphia is an example of a community-built city. With a homey, small-town feel, Philly isn’t only home to great food (some say the best in the country), but it also has a legacy of culture in the form of music, sports and American history. Look for apartment options in community centered neighborhoods. There are many communities across the country that will welcome you or your loved ones. The trick is making the effort and using the right search tools.
Recent studies have found that purpose in a person’s life affects health, longevity and well-being. In societies and cultures where seniors are revered and seen as vast wells of knowledge and experience, people are not only healthier, but also live longer. Mentorship can give purpose to a senior’s life, and can be a fulfilling relationship for both parties. Many senior-youth mentor programs can be found around the country, and many have an online presence that makes it easy for seniors to apply. Not sure where to start? Check out the local library to see what programs it offers to connect seniors and youth.