It should come as no surprise that loneliness is linked to depression. However, caregivers may be surprised to learn that senior isolation often causes depression to become much, much worse.
Everyone with an elderly parent has cause for concern about the damaging effects of social isolation on the old. But if your mother or father is already struggling with depression, you need to understand that being in lock down poses a further danger.
Social Isolation Can Start a Domino Effect In the Elderly
The Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” tells the tragic story of a woman serving a prison sentence who is put into isolation. When she finally re-enters the prison’s general population, she is showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. A doctor soon confirms the diagnosis, blaming the term in isolation for the rapid progress of the disease.
This, lamentably, is not just fiction. Scientists have concluded, from multiple human studies, that social isolation is bad for people. Research coming out of Florida State University strongly suggests that loneliness makes people forty percent more likely to get dementia.
And social isolation is not just bad for mental health, it is also bad for physical health. And the older the individual, the higher his risks of complications from loneliness.
What Can You Do To Keep Your Senior Socially Engaged?
A senior center in Macon, Georgia had a genius idea: They threw a bingo block party for their local seniors. The outdoor setting and a strict policy about keeping six feet between partiers made this event a huge success without risking the health of the elderly.
Why not ask your local senior center to do the same? Or, if you don’t mind navigating the process of getting a street closure, you could throw the party yourself.
Teach Your Senior to Zoom
Many aging specialists are recommending social engagement via the Zoom platform. Engaging friends and family via Zoom involves many brain tasks that keep seniors cognitively healthy. To execute a Zoom session, the senior must exercise the section of the brain that makes plans.
Then, during the conversation itself, the senior must pull up memories of his shared experiences with the person on the computer or tablet. Conversations automatically exercise several other brain functions, like analysis, responding to data, and forming questions.
Homecare can help
Homecare aides that come to a senior’s home to provide needed services, also function to engage seniors socially and in person. The benefits to this kind of homecare are many. So if your senior is at risk of social isolation, it’s definitely worth learning more about this option.
In addition to administering medications, bathing, and cooking for a senior, homecare specialists can help your loved one master needed technology and engage in virtual social opportunities like classes, meetings, and other events.
In conclusion, seniors need the mental stimulation of companionship just as much as everyone else. Possibly more so. The risks of social isolation for seniors are not exaggerated. However, with a little planning, homecare, and new technology, seniors can steer clear of the worst consequences of living through a pandemic.