As it becomes more and more of a hassle for our parents to get out of the house, they will probably have to begin giving up at least some of the social activities they used to enjoy. This experience can be pretty isolating for seniors, as you can imagine, and even more so if they live alone. That being said, independent and assisted living communities can provide seniors with the kind of accessible opportunities they need to maintain active and fulfilling social interactions throughout their golden years.
Sharing a Meal
Though it may be easy to take for granted, the simple act of sharing a meal with a friend can serve as a good baseline for social interaction, particularly if all of the preparation and cleanup is left to others. It is for this exact reason that the communal dining room is a focal point for almost every senior living community. As you might expect, the dining room presents one of the easiest and most natural ways for new residents to meet all of their new neighbors.
While some communities allow their residents to reserve tables, which can be important for old friends who want to sit together, others have more communal seating arrangements that can be a little more conducive to conversation for new residents. Since this will be such an important aspect of community life for your loved one, you should make it a point to ask about how the dining area operates at any of the communities that you and your loved one visit.
Participating in Activities
Most senior living communities have a dedicated staff that plans and runs activities that are meant to keep their residents active. Whether that means scheduling off-campus trips to local museums and shops or creating interactive activities for residents to participate in around the community itself, there should be plenty of opportunities for residents to socialize with others while doing something that they enjoy.
Building New Relationships
Once all of the initial excitement of the move begins to settle down, residents will begin to settle into a routine that involves interacting with the same group of staff and residents day in and day out, though there will always be new staff members and residents to meet. As time passes and as some people begin to become more familiar than others, most residents begin to form the kind of lasting friendships that can become so fundamental to each of our lives. In any event, residents will always have the opportunity to meet new people and develop new friendships with people who will never be out of reach.
As wonderful as all of these social opportunities can be, residents will always be able to maintain as much independence as they want or are able. Bearing that in mind, these opportunities will generally remain just that: opportunities. If a resident doesn't feel like getting out and doing anything, no one will make them, though a member of the staff will kindly encourage residents to participate in events. In the end though, residents will generally be able to do exactly what they want when they want, just like they would have been able to at home. The only real difference is that they will not need to go anywhere if they want to get involved and be social.
Mitigating the Serious Risks of Isolation
There are a number of serious risks that are associated with isolation, each of which can severely affect a person's wellbeing. By providing opportunities for seniors to engage in a socially active lifestyle, senior living communities can help to mitigate many of those risks, including depression, loneliness, physical inactivity, and poor blood pressure.
While the relationship we have with our parents will always play a central role in their lives, most of us simply cannot be there for our parents all of the time. That being said, it will be worth the time it will take to find a senior living community that can provide the kind of care and socialization your parent or parents need as they move into the later stages of their lives.
When Selecting a Community
When the time comes to begin visiting communities that may work for your loved one, it will be a good idea to have a prepared list of questions about the things that are most important to you and your loved one. For instance, you should probably ask about how the dining service works and about what kinds of activities are scheduled in the community.
Though the answers you get will give you an idea about what your loved one could expect, you should still ask if it would be possible to sit through a meal service or sit in on an activity. By seeing how things work directly, you and your loved one will have the opportunity to meet some of the staff and residents and see just how things work in the facility.