Living at home can be isolating. It can be difficult for seniors to maintain their social relationships when they are no longer working. Your parent might fear that transitioning to an assisted living community will sever the few social ties they have left.
Living an Active Life
Living an active, healthy and social life is important no matter what your age. But it’s especially important for older adults.
Social circles shrink with age for a variety of reasons — maybe your mom’s friends have died or moved away or your dad can no longer drive — but feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to serious consequences for senior health. Feeling lonely increases the risk for accelerated cognitive decline, poorer cognitive function, and dissatisfaction with family and social relationships.
On the other hand, seniors who are socially active handle stress better, which leads to important increases in cardiovascular health and an improved immune system. Older adults with diverse social supports are more likely to exercise regularly, which leads to a host of physical, mental, and cognitive benefits. Consistent socialization reduces the likelihood that seniors will experience the depression caused by isolation and loneliness as well as reduces levels of anxiety. And socialization helps seniors maintain their self-esteem and sense of worth.
It’s no surprise that your parent is concerned about losing touch with friends at church or the librarian at the local branch.
Fostering New Friendships
The truth is, of course, that a move to assisted living doesn’t have to change all that. Local seniors can continue to attend their usual church service or visit favorite shops, libraries, and other destinations, either with their own car or through the provided transportation.
Plus, assisted living residents gain access to a strong social environment and support network. Residents often gather for conversation and programs in the lively community areas — pubs, living rooms, libraries, beauty salons, private dining rooms, and sunrooms — and enjoy the companionship of neighbors, friends, and family.
Handling the Objection
If your parent objects to assisted living by saying, “I’ll miss my friends,” ease their concerns by letting them know they’re allowed to have friends visit whenever they’d like. Even better, at assisted living communities, residents are encouraged to socialize with one another and create new friendships.
Try saying something like, “Many residents are the same age as you and are as active as you. They play bridge and blackjack, host book clubs, go to the theater, enjoy happy hours, and watch movies. Let’s just go check it out.”
Remind them that assisted living offers the best opportunity to continue an active social life and to stay connected with friends in the years ahead. Social events are encouraged, and community life usually means that seniors are more active than they were living alone. There are opportunities to socialize during activities, small groups like book club, writing class or knitting, or chatting during meals.
Assisted living communities provide an environment for seniors to thrive and gain their independence back by getting active and social once again. Not only does assisted living provide residents with care and supportive services, but it also gives aging adults the chance to reinvent themselves through a variety of activities, programs, and outings.
Research shows that it is the social component of assisted living that makes the greatest contribution to positive quality of life and fewer symptoms of depression.
As you help them transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns. For more insights into common objections and strategies for how to handle them, download our eBook The Standoff: Coping With a Parent’s Objections to Assisted Living.