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The Health Risks of Winter Isolation For Seniors

Staying actively involved with the world helps you stay both mentally and physically fit. While aging experts long suspected there was a link between isolation and declining health, they didn’t have scientific evidence to back up their suspicions – until recently.

Researchers now say isolation presents a serious health risk for older adults. It can contribute to a host of health issues ranging from obesity and diabetes to depression and heart problems. Isolated seniors also experience earlier mortality.

This can be troubling news to hear if you have a senior loved one who lives alone, especially if you are a long-distance caregiver who can’t visit frequently. Finding ways to help your loved one reengage with life is key.

Helping a Senior Stay Active and Engaged

If your loved one has become isolated, begin by determining the cause.

Have they cut back or given up driving altogether?

Call their local agency on aging to see if they maintain a list of affordable senior transportation. Having safe, reliable transportation can help them reconnect with their social network.

Has their close circle of friends moved away? Or is money tight?

Help them make new friends and expand their social network. A few inexpensive ways to do so include:

  • Volunteer: A long-term study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University showed that older adults who volunteer at least 200 hours a year experienced fewer incidences of chronic health conditions than those who didn’t spend time volunteering. Call your local United Way agency or visit VolunteerMatch.com to explore volunteer opportunities that might be of interest to your senior loved one.
  • Silver Sneakers program: Many Medicare Advantage plans offer enrollees a free membership in Silver Sneakers. Through their membership the senior can participate in wellness activities at local fitness clubs, YMCA organizations, and more at no cost. If they aren’t eligible for a Silver Sneakers membership, fitness organizations typically offer a senior discount. It can be a great way to connect with other older adults.
  • Join the senior center: Most communities have a local senior center or two. It’s a good way to meet new people and participate in a variety of activities each day. Membership fees are usually low and programming is free or very close to it. Daily activities range from cards and games to watercolor classes, exercise programs, and musical performances.

 

Connect from Home

 

One avenue for helping older adults stay connected to friends and loved ones near and far is through the use of technology. Video chat programs like Skype or FaceTime are easy to master on a tablet device or smart phone. Families can make it a point to connect via video chat every day.

 

Video chat also has the advantage of allowing you to see your senior loved one “face-to-face” to assess how well they are doing. Being able to see them, even through video, can help you spot changes that might indicate a problem. For example, a flushed face might be a sign of a fever or an unintended change in weight could be a sign they are struggling with cooking or meal planning.

The HarborChase Lifestyle

At HarborChase communities, we know how important it is to live a full and vibrant life at any age. You’ll see it from the moment you walk through the door at any of our communities.

If you are searching for senior living for yourself or a loved one, we encourage you to visit us in person to learn more.