Family connections are important at every age. You should be able to depend on your family for support and healthy communication from the time you’re a child. But, connections and community are equally important in the later years of your life as an aging adult.
Almost every older individual wants to age gracefully, and many want to age in place. While there are many personal factors and choices that can play into that, the role of the family can also make a big difference.
Family members can (and should) actively engage and build a nurturing community around their elderly loved ones. Let’s touch on the importance of emotional support and communication as your loved ones get older, and cover some creative activities that can enhance their quality of life.
Why Connection is Important
Again, connection is important at any age. However, seniors are often at a greater risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation. Their children are grown, many friends might have moved away or passed away, and they might even be divorced or a widow/widower. Unfortunately, the health risks of isolation can be severe, potentially causing a field of mental health conditions such as anxiety, dementia, and depression.
Depression may manifest differently in older adults as well. Signs of depression in older adults include sleep issues, confusion, pain, and vision problems. As a loved one of an older adult, keep an open mind to these symptoms and other effects of isolation, as they manifest into physical health issues as well.
They may even cause premature death. Social connections help to keep seniors healthy allowing them to stay connected with the people around them and foster greater understanding of themselves. They can share stories, give advice, and reflect on their lives, which can give their mental health a boost and help them recognize that they’ve had (and still have) a strong purpose.
While any kind of community connection can help, fostering a family connection can make a big difference in making sure your aging relatives remain mentally well.
Fostering Family Connections
Thanks to advancements in technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with your aging family members. Things like video chats, text messages, and regular phone calls can help keep your older family membersin constant communication. This can help to prevent isolation and loneliness on a daily basis.
But, don’t rely solely on technology to boost connection. Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions. Consider traveling with your older family members, scheduling weekly lunches, and including them in family celebrations, like birthday parties. Let them know you care about their well-being and comfort by making these events and get-togethers as accessible as possible.
Be considerate of things like logistics, use accessible and functional signage, and incorporate things they enjoy so they’re more likely to keep coming out and engaging in family celebrations.
As a family member, you can also take steps to ward off potential anxiety in older relatives by getting them to spend more time outside. Nature is the ultimate healer, and a fantastic way to promote both physical and mental health. Go on walks with your older relatives, even if they’re only able to go a block or two. Or, simply sit outside with them. Enjoy a picnic. Go birdwatching. Head to a quiet park to enjoy a conversation.
Fostering community and staying connected doesn’t have to be complicated. Consider what your relatives enjoy and combine that with what you know about connection and community. Any time you’re able to spend with them can help.
Building Community Elsewhere
In addition to spending more time with your older family members, consider how you can help them foster relationships and build a community of their own, outside of your family unit. Senior care services can offer you peace of mind, as most are designed to make sure your relatives stay safe and healthy when you’re not there to look after them. They are there to support families as well as older individuals by providing personalized care plans can include things like medication distribution and basic care, but can also include social activities and companionship.
If your aging relatives are able-bodied and you know they would have fun exploring and trying different things, encourage them to participate in as many activities as possible during retirement, including:
- Volunteer opportunities;
- Senior communities.
They can also enjoy travel opportunities specifically meant for aging adults. There are senior communities and organizations all over the country that put together travel experiences for senior groups. They take care of booking everything, as well as the experiences everyone will have during the trip. It’s a wonderful way to encourage your older family members to explore different areas and meet new people.
No one should have to age alone or let the impact of isolation make their golden years difficult. As a family member, consider it your responsibility to make sure your older loved ones feel connected and that they consider themselves part of a community. By doing your part to foster those connections, you’ll be able to enjoy their golden years with them and take comfort in knowing they’re living their best life and enjoying people and experiences they might not have otherwise had the chance to.
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