While Valentine’s Day is traditionally associated with romantic love, it is not uncommon for many people to be reminded of other important relationships in their lives. For senior citizens, these personal connections can be especially significant. InnovAge – a nonprofit organization that serves as the comprehensive resource for Colorado’s aging population – considers socialization a critical part of an individual’s self-worth and overall wellbeing, and offers suggestions for cultivating and preserving strong relationships with and among older adults.
How Socialization Affects Well-Being for Senior Citizens
According to Annisa Cotton, care supervisor for InnovAge Home Care – an InnovAge program that provides non-skilled in-home services – human interaction and close, personal relationships provide more than just companionship. “As we get older, we begin to recognize that many of our friends and loved ones are no longer with us, and a holiday that is committed to relationships can be a difficult reminder of loss,” said Cotton. “Because depression becomes increasingly common with age, it’s important to have people in our lives who can provide those life-affirming connections.” Here are five ways that socialization provides a psychological benefit.
1) New connections remind us that we are never too old to make friends.
2) Social activity fulfills a universal need to be accepted by and identify with a group of like-minded individuals.
3) Companionship helps improve and prevent depression.
4) It is stimulating to be around people and to be engaged as an active participant in life.
5) Participating with others provides a feeling of worth and self-esteem.
Tips for Initiating, Facilitating and Preserving Friendships
There is no age limit for building relationships, but there are factors to consider when making, and keeping, an older friend. “Aging individuals are often faced with unique sets of challenges that may not apply to their younger counterparts,” said Cotton. “As is the case with all successful friendships, communication, patience and understanding are key to enjoying one another’s company.” InnovAge offers the following five suggestions for maximizing time spent with a senior companion:
1) Focus on what the person can do and, not what they cannot do.
2) Pay attention to what he or she enjoys doing, and choose activities that aren’t too overwhelming or unfamiliar.
3) When faced with a difficult diagnosis, accept it for what it is. Use it as a reason to live in the moment and make that moment special.
4) Don’t have expectations that are too high or unrealistic. Acknowledging physical and mental limitations will make time spent together more fulfilling for both of you.
5) Reach out to someone who is providing care to a person with dementia. Your friendship can give the caregiver a much needed and welcome break from the day-to-day stress in their life. If you also befriend the person with dementia, you can spend quality time with them while giving the caregiver time to him or herself to run errands or do things he or she may not be able to do easily while caring for his or her loved one.
While it is true that developing a relationship with an older adult may require more flexibility, InnovAge believes it is important for everyone to have the opportunity to socialize and build valuable relationships. “Friendship is not and should not be limited by a person’s age. While some relationships may require more effort than others, they are vitally important to each and every one of us, regardless of age,” said Cotton.
InnovAge is here to help seniors and caregivers, alike. InnovAge provides a full spectrum of services to enable older adults to live independently in their homes and communities. InnovAge offers home care services, healthcare and day programs, care management and memory loss programs. For more information about InnovAge services in your area, please visit www.MyInnovAge.org or call toll free at 888-992-4464.