How Communities Can Help Seniors Avoid Isolation

senior isolationSenior isolation is a staggering issue, but an entirely invisible one. Many seniors who live alone are at high risk of falling into isolation, which has risks far deeper than loneliness. As a community, there are a number of things we can do better to promote senior integration in society and look after our fellow elderly citizens. Some of these things we can take individual responsibility for, but many are down to local governance for which you can write to your representative.

  • Good neighbours. Knowing your neighbours is a dying concept, but for the elderly, handicapped, or vulnerable, that is a real shame. If you know a senior person, introduce them to their neighbours. The best thing we can do for our seniors is know who they are, and offer help when we can – especially during Canadian winters when our senior neighbours may not be able to get out for supplies.
  • Transportation. Many seniors don’t drive, and that lack of transportation is the main reason they will fall into isolation. Communities with good access to transportation help seniors to get out and about.
  • Community activities. Whether they are religious services, senior-specific fitness classes, social dining, or just a cafe meetup, hosting social activities aimed at seniors helps them to find an excuse to go out and socialise. If you’re part of a community organisation or local business, perhaps you can find ways to host a senior group.
  • Animal companionship. Studies have consistently shown that something to take care of, especially dogs and cats, make an astonishing difference in the lives of all adults, including seniors. Dog ownership decreases depression and illness, encourages social interaction, and promotes good self-esteem.
  • Promote hobbies. Hobbies give seniors a social group, entertainment, and most importantly a sense of purpose. Seniors who are active in voluntary groups take better care of themselves and stay engaged in their communities through the immense sense of purpose the group provides. If you are part of a voluntary organisation, perhaps you could speak to your club about how you could increase senior participation.
  • Senior-friendly spaces. Places to sit down, access to washrooms, transportation, noisy and confusing areas. These are all issues that determine how senior-friendly a public space is. Take a look at the places your community congregates – markets, museums, places of worship, etc., and try to think how comfortable an elderly person would be there.

Our senior neighbours have given our community value throughout their lives, and it’s our shared responsibility to take care of them and befriend them. We can so easily forget them as isolated seniors are by definition out of reach – but we can change that!