A huge contributing factor to senior citizens living a long and happy life is socialization. As Dr. Roger Wong said in his TedTalk, “Loneliness is the new smoking,” and with the COVID-19 pandemic, many older adults were isolated, taking a toll on their mental health. However, the world is starting to open back up again, presenting opportunities for people of all ages to socialize. Here are the benefits of socialization and some ways that senior citizens can socialize and make friends.
Benefits of socialization in your later years
There are several benefits to keeping up a healthy social life that range from mental wellness and support to physical wellness. Here are some of the benefits:
- Helps keep older adults mentally alert and can even prevent Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- Fights depression.
- Encourages physical activity.
- Extend your life. On the flip side, loneliness can increase your risk of dying.
Fun activities for senior citizens
Here are some ideas and tips for senior citizens to improve their social life:
- Reliable transportation. If driving is out of the question, then checkout these ride hailing services made specifically for senior citizens.
- Adopt a pet: no matter how big or small, a pet can be a great companion for an older adult living alone.
- Join a Facebook group such as Independent Living it Up!, a group started by CarePenguin for older adults living independently to chat and share tips on how to age in place.
- Join a book club.
- Take an exercise class at your local recreation center. The Silver Sneakers class at the gym I go to is a huge hit and all of the participants hang out outside of class too, forming great friendships.
- Join a retirement or independent living community. A lot of retirement communities have fun activities planned for their residents such as exercise classes, bowling tournaments, video game nights, fashion shows, etc.
- Build positive relationships with grandchildren. Put in the effort to get their phone number and set up regular lunches/dinners and activities to do with your grandchildren.
- Volunteer somewhere you’re passionate about. Personally, I used to volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center, and I worked in the squirrel nursery with several older adults. Volunteering can be fun and rewarding!
- Organize social activities on your own. Have a board game or card game you love? Invite your friends or family over to play with you. Or, invite a group of friends to go on walks with regularly or have movie nights. The possibilities are endless.
- Attend church or other organized religious activities.
- Embrace technology and call, FaceTime, or Zoom your friends and family.
- Play online games such as Words with Friends.
Ways for family members to boost socialization with their elderly loved one
- Call them. This one is simple. Everyone loves to chat on the phone occasionally, and it doesn’t require any fancy technology.
- Video chatting: help your loved one setup Zoom or Facetime to video chat. If they aren’t particularly tech-savvy, consider getting a GrandPad, a tablet designed specifically for senior citizens to easily video chat, email, and share photos with their family.
- If you have an elderly neighbor, reach out to them. Leave a note at their door with your number on it if they ever want to contact you. Offer to pick up something from the store for them every once in a while, and let them know you are someone that is there for them.
- Take your therapy dog to nursing homes. If you have a super sweet gentle dog, get it certified as a therapy dog and take it to local senior centers or nursing homes. Animals can have such a positive impact on people, and it gives them an opportunity to chat with you!
- Students can volunteer to socialize with seniors through the organization Students to Seniors. This allows students to interact with older adults who may be isolated or want to connect with younger people.
Donate to organizations that serve older adults. If you can’t volunteer yourself, or you’re looking for another way to support the senior community, donate to a local or national organization that provides services to older adults. A simple Google search will present plenty of organizations to donate to, or you can give to well-known organizations such as Meals on Wheels and the National Council on Aging.
Keep yourself safe online
Interacting online has proven to be an excellent way for senior citizens to socialize, but it’s important to remember internet safety. Here are some general tips.
- If someone calls or messages you claiming to be a family member or friend looking for money, ask them a question that only you two would know the answer to, to ensure that they are who they really say they are. You can also verify with another family member.
- Don’t share too much personal information on the internet. If someone is chatting with you and asking prying questions, you probably don’t want to talk to that person.
- Don’t ever reply or send money to a “Saudi Prince.” The Saudi Prince is always a scam.
Socialization is extremely important in older adults’ lives mentally and physically. With these tips and ideas, senior citizens can live an active and social life.
Don’t forget to join the “Independent Living It Up!” Facebook group to chat with other older adults living independently! Share your experiences with aging in place or just chat about anything.
CarePenguin is an IoT app and sensor that non-invasively monitors the well-being of older adults living independently by detecting activity in a home through water use. If you think you and your family could benefit from CarePenguin, we’d love for you to give it a try!