Ways to Manage Social Isolation
The negative impact and detrimental effects of social isolation remain an important topic. The AARP Public Policy Institute’s 2018 study “highlighted social isolation as the new silent killer – a major risk factor for a host of conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and early onset dementia.” AARP defines social isolation as “occur[ing] when people withdraw and become disconnected from family, friends and community” and reports, “… nearly 1 in 5 Americans 65 and older are socially isolated”. Given these startling statistics, what are ways we can reduce our risk and manage social isolation?
1. Connect with a local senior center
Senior centers are a hub of activities and resources within the community. As the National Council on Aging (NCOA) states, “Senior centers serve as a gateway to the nation’s aging network—connecting older adults to vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.” Senior centers offer a variety of programs, including exercise classes, educational programs, congregate meals, benefits assistance, art programs and, of course, socialization. According to NCOA, “…almost 10,000 senior centers serve more than 1 million older adults every day.”
We can visit our local senior center to find out about the programs and services they offer. Start by reviewing their newsletter and highlighting an activity of interest to you, or ask a staff member if they recommend an activity for your first visit.
Volunteering can be a great way for us to give back to our community, put our skills to use, share our gifts with others and meet new people. If you’re interested in volunteering, start by visiting a local school, faith-based community, social service agency or senior care organization or volunteer agency to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
3. Engage in social clubs, faith-based groups, etc.
These groups can be an excellent avenue for connecting with others while sharing an interest, belief or hobby together. It may be overwhelming for us to locate a club or group, so we can start by reading our local newspaper, checking out flyers posted throughout the community or asking friends or family for recommendations. Additionally, Connect2Affect is an online resource that allows us to search for organizations and resources within our zip code.
There are several ways technology can connect us with others. This can be accomplished through video chatting, corresponding through email or communicating with friends and family through social media, just to name a few. Technology can often be intimidating, but there are community resources available to assist. Check with your local senior center or library to see if they offer computer classes to help get you started.