To say that seniors are at high risk of depression is an understatement. 1 in 4 seniors live with a mental health challenge (e.g., depression, anxiety, or dementia), and according to the National Seniors Council of Canada, “studies show that the lack of a supportive social network is linked to a 60% increase in the risk of dementia and cognitive decline; while socially integrated lifestyles protect against dementia”. Luckily, it has also been proven that seniors with many social relationships lead longer and healthier lives, highlighting the need for social cohesion and connection in our later years of life.
The most common cause of senior isolation is widowhood, shrinking social networks, and children and grandchildren moving far away. According to the Government of Canada, other critical and often preventable factors that heighten the risk of seniors feeling and being socially isolated include:
- Living alone or living with a spouse but serving as their caregiver
- Being 80+, Aboriginal, new immigrants or LGBTQ
- Experiencing health issues (particularly Alzheimer’s, dementia and chronic illness)
- Disconnection from children and family (or not having any)
- Inability to access transportation
- Living in a low-income household
- Lack of access to or awareness of useful community support services
- Fear of accessing community support services
- Housing instability
- Fear or falling, incontinence or other issues that may prevent them from engaging with community members
Knowing that social connections can and do improve overall happiness in seniors’ everyday life, here are the top 4 ways to maintain and create new social connections:
- Volunteer: The Journal of Gerontology completed a study concluding that elderly people who volunteer experience higher levels of happiness and overall well-being. These volunteer activities not only create social and community connections, but also ignite a sense of purpose and achievement for the volunteers.
- Exercise Classes: Senior group exercise programs led by trained and certified instructors can serve the dual purpose of helping seniors stay healthy while also introducing them to a whole new community of friends.
- Learning Something New: Learning a new skill is proven to improve cognition, but it comes with the added benefit of introducing seniors to a whole new community of friends, mentors and teachers while doing so.
- Live in a Retirement Home: Since living alone is a key indicator of senior loneliness and depression, retirement living can improve socialization and connection. Lifelong friends, partners, and chosen family are often found in retirement living communities.
If you, or a senior in your life, is looking for ways to create new social connections, visit our website today at www.carefor.ca. There you will find information about our two retirement homes in Pembroke, Carefor Civic and Carefor Mackay as well as resources and more information about our in-home care services.