Many times, as seniors get older, they find their social world shrinking. It may start early in retirement, with a move to a nicer climate. Unless the retirees are very proactive and assertively find new friends, they may find that they don’t have nearly as many friends in their new neighborhood as they left in their old one. Another reason for the shrinking social circle may be a divorce later in life, after which one or both persons finds fewer social opportunities or may be too embarrassed to be very socially active. Perhaps the increasing numbers of deaths due to poor health or age decrease the social circle, as well as the possibility of losing a spouse. Also related to poor health is the possibility of the seniors’ decreasing tolerance of physical activity, poorer driving skills and/or their decreasing night vision. One or more of these reasons can serve to isolate the senior citizen, often creating loneliness and depression (which further decreases physical activity), and decreasing social support systems, and can form a vicious circle of increasing isolation.
Here are some suggested activities, resources, and programs that you may have in place in your community (or better yet, that you could start) that could decrease isolation for the senior in your life and increase the seniors’ social world:
First would obviously be the local senior center. Even small communities have them. They may have many different kinds of activities, from shopping trips and excursions, to exercise and dance lessons, to foot care, even computer classes – and all cater especially to seniors! (Computers themselves provide several avenues for social interaction, via emails, chat rooms, etc.) Visit your local senior center to investigate what is available in your area, then accompany your senior until he or she feels comfortable. Who wants to be the “Lone Stranger”?
Another obvious source for activities for the senior is church. Many churches have organized groups doing charity work, benefits, potlucks and even quilting circles to raise money. Many of these are also daytime activities.
Less obvious is your local community center and/or library. They will often have classes, lectures, book clubs, and serve as meeting places for various organizations and clubs. Clubs that seniors may enjoy run the gamut from quilting, card playing, gardening and any other type of activity or hobby. Find one that might interest your senior and again, go along as well until he or she make a few friends and feels comfortable going alone. Don’t forget to check your local paper for an events calendar in your area, too.
Check out the community colleges in your area. Colleges often offer extremely low cost or free classes to senior citizens. Speaking of schools, be thinking about ways your senior may want to give back to the community. Many kindergartens and elementary schools would be delighted to have volunteers to tutor or help children with reading, writing and even craft projects. Check to see if your local youth center may have a need for mentors or teachers. Experience is the best teacher!
Also, think of all the ways that a senior could be a valuable volunteer for a hospital, library, animal shelter or in a foster grandparenting program. Museums, galleries and other exhibit-oriented facilities often need docents to head tours.
Don’t forget your local YMCA or local community pool for exercise classes and free swims or swim classes. It’s good exercise! Make sure that your senior can maintain a comfortable exercise level in his or her chosen activity, however. Many places offer classes just for seniors, catering to their needs, likes, and abilities. Or if you’re looking for something a bit more fast-paced, check out the top gyms in Greenwich.
Last, but not least, is to organize your own activity! Organize your own coffee hour every week and invite your friends and neighbors! Plan a shopping trip and lunch every month! Get involved with an activity you love and make it yours, then invite some people you think would like it also. Start an investment club, travel club, or a dinner club. Senior isolation is not limited to just your senior – – there are others out there who would like to be involved – they just need an opportunity.