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Keeping Seniors Social

by Renee Marcus on 4/28/14 10:17 AM

There's an old fashioned stigma that brings negative connotations to the idea of seniors moving into a long term care facility. But in many cases, it is seniors themselves who think of moving into these facilities and if they are encouraged by relatives many are making the transition with less resistance than they once had.

Senior care can mean a lot of things, from complete physical care to simpler things, such as medicationsocial-elderly reminders, a place to eat lunch, or a ride to the beauty shop or the doctor's office. Regardless of how much help a particular senior needs, there is a difference between "living in a home" and becoming "part of a community." For many reasons, the latter is definitely preferable.

As people age, their long standing social circles can begin to fade. Siblings, old friends from school, and even former coworkers may pass away or become inaccessible. This can lead to feelings of loneliness or even abandonment. Some seniors may lean more heavily on adult children or grandchildren creating tension throughout the family. Without social interaction, many seniors resort to watching television and spending long periods of time alone. Even when they don't seem to mind, this isolation can be damaging and encourage conditions such as dementia and depression. Women, who traditionally have smaller more tight knit social circles, can be hit especially hard by losing friends and family.

Long-term care facilities have an opportunity to make a big impact when it comes to keeping seniors socially engaged, and as consequently, mentally engaged. Activities should cater to different ability levels. Those who have more trouble cognitively may benefit from a showing of old movies or classic television starring old time greats like Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball or Doris Day. Instead of staying in their rooms, a "dinner theater" atmosphere can be created where seniors have the opportunity to communicate about what they see rather than just watch.Similarly, popular music from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, can be played creating an atmosphere of a traditional dance. For more engagement, facilities can host an adaptive exercise class, crafting circles, board or card game tournaments, music classes, learn a language or improve their financial or computer skills.

Getting out into the community is also beneficial. Some groups of seniors may enjoy spending time doing volunteer work. Others look forward to trips to the library, local museums, or to sporting events. Many seniors also benefit from increasing their computer skills and learning to embrace social media.If they have family that is spread out and unable to visit, they can get updates and see pictures of friends and family members or they can send emails to old friends who live in other areas. With voice recognition software and Internet calling seniors with these skills can do even more to stay connected.

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