Although no one likes to feel left out, seniors who suffer from social isolation are likely to be struck by more than loneliness. Many will face serious health consequences from a lack of engagement, and social isolation has even been associated with increased mortality.
Senior care organizations can see numerous benefits from reducing social isolation, including increased resident retention, better quality of care, and lower staff turnover. Here are some basics that can help boost engagement levels:
Develop a calendar of events for seniors
Social activities don’t just happen. Although many senior living facilities have common areas where residents can come together to eat, play games, or just socialize, that’s rarely enough to get all the residents participating. Some residents are shy, introverted, or just not bold enough to approach people they don’t know. That’s where events come in.
Many organizations employ an activities coordinator who does research on the latest trends in senior events. Even if that duty falls to another staff member, it’s imperative to assign at least one person to do the management, tracking, and promotion of social events in order to track which activities garner more enthusiasm, and which can be dropped from lack of interest.
Offer a range of social opportunities
Not everyone enjoys movie night or chair yoga, but there’s bound to be some activity that’s appealing. Offering a wide range of choices — from a dessert tasting party to a “field trip” outside the facility — gives residents a feeling that there’s always more they could join.
When they try several activities, residents are likely to meet more people and feel much more connected to each other and where they live. Senior care operators should put together a mix of volunteer opportunities, educational sessions like learning a new hobby, physical activity options like Silver Sneakers, and games that can be enjoyed by those of all mobility levels. It’s also helpful to involve residents’ families into some of the events, such as having a “grandkids day” when grandchildren can play games along with the residents.
Consider using technology
Because of illness, decreased mobility, or a reluctance to socialize, many seniors may want to stay in their homes, but still need the benefits of social engagement. That’s where technology can become a major advantage.
With the right platform, senior technology can be customized based on resident interests, while still being easy to use. Residents might use Skype, Facebook, or other social tools to interact, or they can join online events that range from symphony performances to museum tours.
Even if they’re not directly engaging with the people on the other side of the screen, these opportunities make seniors feel part of the world, and interested in cultural and social trends. Also, more use of technology for fun and learning gives seniors a better understanding of how tech tools can help with their health issues as well.
The results of these efforts can be better resident health, higher referrals, a better bottom line, and happier residents and staff overall. Taking steps now to create a socially engaged environment can pay off in many ways, both in short-term engagement and long-term operational growth.