When the weather turns colder, we all tend to turn on the TV more. And then we are inundated with advertising. And all the ads on TV are aimed directly at our pocketbooks- with deals that we just can’t afford not to take.
Unfortunately, for some older adults the ads on TV are just a reminder of how isolated from the world they feel. You might say “Well that’s just crotchety, old Uncle Sam- he doesn’t like anyone and likes to be alone.”, but often, loneliness and isolation do not happen by choice but are the result of a host of factors commonly experienced as we age. These culprits include limited mobility, chronic illness, cognitive loss, caregiving responsibilities, relationship changes, and the loss of a loved one. Over time, individuals and couples can find themselves living a life of solitude, finding it difficult to engage with the outside world.
Social isolation may lead to depression, a tendency to get sick, Alzheimer’s disease and a shortened life span. (This might be why crotchety Uncle Sam is so crotchety!) The good news is that steps can be taken to reduce isolation and improve one’s quality of life. The best gift you can give someone who is isolated, is the gift of your time. The following are some ideas to engage someone who is isolated and ways to plan for more engagement in the New Year:
1. Pick up the Phone – It may seem obvious, but a simple phone call can go a long way in brightening someone’s day. Do your best to refrain from calling during a time when you’re distracted or would have to rush off the phone and be sure to slow down and listen. Encourage others to call, as well.
2. Pay a Visit – Carve out time to stop by and visit your loved ones. Make sure that visits become a part of your routine. If you are too busy, find others in your family or community to participate as well.
3. Reach out to the Community – The Metro area offers many opportunities for older adults to engage with others. Call the Care Management Information and Referral line at 202-364-0020, for information on local senior centers, adult day programs, Senior Villages and adult learning programs.
4. Use Technology- several groups have done research that seems to indicate that an iPad can reduce social isolation. Teaching an older adult how to Skype using a hand-held device can put them back in regular touch with their family and friends. Showing someone how Facebook or other social media works can put them in touch with friends and memories they haven’t thought about in years!
4. Call Seabury – Seabury Resources for Aging has nutritional sites for older adults who reside in Wards 5 and 6 in the District. The Seabury Connector offers Washington’s seniors free transportation to medical appointments and public benefits appointments to seniors within the District. For those living outside of the District, the care management program can help you find similar programs around the area, or other programs to promote engagement. To learn more about any of these programs visit Seabury’s website or call the below numbers:
Ward 5: (202) 529-8701
Ward 6: (202) 397-1726
Seabury Connector: (202) 715-7649
Care Management: (202) 364-0020