Is there a senior person in your life battling loneliness and isolation? Humans, regardless of their age, are social creatures who need social connections in their lives. It’s important for older adults to feel they have a close circle of loved ones surrounding them so they don’t develop unhealthy habits or distressing mental health conditions. Here’s how to build a support system for your senior adult.

Who should be involved in your loved one’s support system?

Here are some people you should include in your senior adult’s support system.

Medical professionals

Your loved one’s doctors, nurses, and therapists are invaluable resources. Make sure you set up clear communication between you and any medical professionals who are responsible for your loved one’s care. In addition to providing important information regarding medications and a tailored wellness regimen, they can be a go-to person when you have any questions or challenges you and your loved one may encounter.

Mental health professionals

While medical professionals focus on the physical health of your loved one, it’s equally vital to consider their mental and emotional well-being. As seniors combat loneliness and isolation, they can be more susceptible to conditions like depression or anxiety. By incorporating mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counselors, or therapists who specialize in geriatric care, you can ensure a more holistic approach to their overall health. These experts can provide coping strategies, therapeutic sessions, and insights into the unique challenges faced by seniors.

Friends and family

A lot of familial caregivers have a tendency to take on too much responsibility and neglect their own needs. To avoid this, it’s important to engage any friends or family members who would be able to help care for your loved one, whether they’re local and can do in-person check-ins or living elsewhere and can schedule social calls or video chats.

Professional caregivers/companions

Companions and caregivers can help your senior loved one with daily living, such as mobility, housekeeping, meal prep, etc., and are available on a part-time or full-time basis. They can also provide a friendly face and conversation, all from the safety and comfort of their own home.

Using technology to feel connected and engaged

The digital age offers unique opportunities for seniors to stay connected and engaged. While some older adults might be hesitant about using technology, with proper guidance and training, they can embrace it to enhance their quality of life:

  • Stay Connected: Tablets or smartphones can be used for video calls with family and friends. Platforms like Zoom or Skype can help seniors feel close to their loved ones, even if they’re miles apart.
  • Entertainment: Platforms like Netflix, YouTube, or Spotify provide endless entertainment options, from movies to music.
  • Online Hobbies: Websites that teach crafts, languages, or even digital games can keep seniors mentally active and engaged.
  • Virtual Reality (VR): VR can offer seniors a chance to “travel” to different parts of the world or experience events they couldn’t physically attend.
  • Safety and Health Monitoring: Wearable devices can track vital health metrics and alert family members or medical professionals if something is amiss.

Local help

Almost every municipality in the State of New Jersey has a Senior Center. Their goal is to help older residents maintain their dignity and independence. At each center, you will find information about the vast array of programs, services, and activities available.

Tips for building a support system

Hold routine family meetings

When building a support system for your senior loved one, consider having regular family meetings, especially when establishing a plan for your loved one’s care. Make sure to include your loved ones in these meetings to get their feedback and consider their feelings and needs.

Check in on them regularly

Be sure to check in on your senior loved one and encourage others in their support system to do the same. It’s also important to check in on them just for social calls, as mentioned previously, this will help improve their mental health and happiness. Regular check-ins will also help you to assess their level of care, as you’ll have a wide range of experiences to draw on for your knowledge of their abilities.

Find social organizations/clubs for them to join

It’s important for seniors to interact with people their own age, who have similar life experiences or interests. Find organizations for your loved ones to join that will introduce them to possible friends and allow them to build on their interests and passions.

Another option is religious organizations, as they offer great support in the form of a community. and often.

Develop their hobbies

As your loved one gets older, it’s important to keep them in touch with those things that they love. Much like the social organizations and clubs mentioned earlier, encouraging your loved ones to develop their hobbies will keep them active and provide them with social interaction.

Physical activity

A sedentary lifestyle can have adverse effects on both the physical and mental health of seniors. Encouraging physical activity tailored to their capabilities can significantly boost their well-being:

  • Fitness Classes: Many local community centers offer fitness classes specifically designed for seniors, emphasizing low-impact exercises that enhance strength, flexibility, and balance.
  • Walking: A simple daily walk, whether in a local park or around the neighborhood, can improve cardiovascular health and offer a refreshing change of scenery.
  • Tai Chi & Yoga: Both these practices emphasize slow, deliberate movements and can help with balance, flexibility, and mental tranquility.
  • Group Activities: Dancing, bowling, or even gentle water aerobics can be both fun and beneficial for health. They also offer the added advantage of social interaction.

If you are a resident of Middlesex County, you can also access local services through the County’s Office on Aging & Disabled Services.

If you are struggling to create a support system for your senior loved one, contact Wellspring Center for Prevention to learn more about a number of programs dedicated to seniors that can assist with promoting healthy decisions, creating a healthy environment, and engaging them in education towards a positive lifestyle.

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