Avoiding Isolation is the Key for Seniors to Have a Happy Life, is the headline of a sensible little piece in the Chicago Herald recently. It repeats what we read in scientific studies as well as in the media, and basically it’s good, common sense. It gives tips for helping older people to stay socially connected, and I’ve added a few more to suit our British culture.
Have a hearing and vision test. Loss of hearing and vision can creep up gradually and not be noticed. An editor said to me once that when he had his first pair of glasses he was amazed at how black the print was on the page!
Everyone needs a purpose, whatever your age. Find a hobby, do volunteer work, knit blankets for Romanian orphanages, help out at your local charity shop, or what ever comes your way that suits you. Sandra, in her 80s, who is housebound telephones five other people that she knows from church in similar circumstances every morning with a little chat and an encouraging Scripture
- Think about getting a pet. Just looking after a cat or a dog can lift feelings of isolation. Pets show love to their owners.
- Sit and eat with others whenever possible. Increasingly, families resort to meals on trays where children eat in their rooms in front of their computers or TVs. It’s an unhealthy habit, especially for seniors. Try to find opportunities for sharing meals – many churches are running drop-in cafes and lunch clubs.
- Try to solve the transport challenge. Many bus routes have been cut in recent years as local authorities try to save costs. Check with your local Age UK and your Council to see if there are discounts with any local taxi firms. Ask your church if people could give you a lift. Not having transport can isolate older people.
- Take to technology – learn to use a computer, or tablet. Have a younger relative show you how to use Skype, or Hangout or any of the new programs that help you speak face-to-face with friends and relatives. It’s much easier and simpler than you may think! Learn to email and perhaps learn social media to stay in touch. Today’s generation of seniors adapted to more technology than any other before it. Many councils have classes for seniors.
- Support seniors who have lost a spouse. When an older person loses a spouse after decades of living together it’s as traumatic as having an amputation. Provide emotional and practical support, and spend time with them. Do things together – perhaps see a good film.
- In church – show an interest in people, and speak to them. Sometimes it takes one person to break the ice. If your church has tea and coffee after the service, stay behind and chats. Or, if you find spontaneous chats difficult, just sit and smile. It’s amazing how a simple smile attracts others!
Find out what local activities you could join in – ask your local library; look in your local newspaper, look on the notices in your supermarket to see what clubs or events there are you could become involved in.
God designed human beings to live and develop in relationship with one another. From the very beginning He said that it was not good for man to be alone, and that goes for women too!
Currently being populated is a new, interactive internet map that when you click on a region information about the events taking place there will show on a sidebar, together with contact details. The website is Faith in Later Life (FiLL), currently being developed as a resource hub for churches and faith groups and individuals who want to befriend and support older people. If your church is interested, send an email to the FiLL director at firstname.lastname@example.org .