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Social stimulation for healthy longevity and easing caregiver strain

Seniors and fine wine share something in common - both can age well. Both, however, require some outside help for best results. With aging seniors, steps can be taken to slow the natural aging process down. Social programs can be one of those steps and can prove to have an excellent outcome for both seniors and caregivers. Participating seniors can feel more engaged, become more active, and even form new relationships. Caregivers can take advantage of some time away while a senior is in a social program and enjoy some much-needed respite care.

It’s often up to the caregiver to find social programs and encourage mom or dad to sign-up. Convincing them to take part can be much easier if the program of choice is something that she or he used to enjoy. Caregivers can also think outside the box. With the unending health benefits of socialization, there’s no harm in trying something new. Here are a couple ideas of different types of social programs:

Senior’s Associations: Typically, there are a variety of associations within each city that are specifically tailored for the senior demographic. These associations welcome visiting seniors and also may offer programs of interest (e.g. walking groups, computer classes, yoga, woodworking, card games, and/or art). Seniors can often find something appealing based on their personal interests. If not, seniors may be open to hear recommendations. Some associations may offer an adult day program or may be able to refer you elsewhere. Call to ask or check your local association’s website to learn what is available.

Technological advances can also prove to be very helpful to decrease the dangers of social isolation with seniors. Consider the following ideas:

Video Conferencing: If a senior and family caregiver live apart from one another geographically, video conferencing can be used to shorten the gap. Smartphone and desktop applications like Skype and FaceTime can be used for conversations where participants can see each other - the next best thing to having a discussion at the dinner table!

AgeWell: As described on their website, “Agewell's model combines best practices of several care coordination models: employing able older people as companions; providing social engagement through home visits; and deploying a mobile health screening tool to identify and address evolving health and social problems before they escalate.” AgeWell offers two delivery methods: a Hospital Discharge Program and a Community-Based Program. In the Hospital Discharge Program, AgeWell meets with hospital patients prior to discharge, assesses their levels of health, and makes follow-up appointments. Doing this is much like prescribing preventative medicine (but without the recommended medication) as fewer hospital patients are readmitted back into the hospital for further care. The Community-Based Program focuses on seniors who have shown themselves to be higher medical users, but may not always partake in the health system. Both programs bring social engagement and navigating the health care maze together for the senior.

Robots: While some may think that robots could never provide the same care that a human caregiver could, technological advances continually prove that robots can be extremely helpful to seniors in various situations - one of the most important jobs they do is to provide companionship. It could be said that robots may steal away jobs from human caregivers; however, consider that robots can offer around-the-clock care - without the need for coffee or lunch breaks. Family caregivers placing a robot in a senior’s home could sleep easier. Professional care staff could also use robots in care centers to allow them to provide more thorough care for all residents.

Involving a senior in a social program of some kind isn’t that difficult to do and can be well worth the time involved. What are you waiting for?

For more reading on the science of social engagement and healthy aging, check out our recent post here:

Learn about our in home senior care services by clicking here.

About the Author(s)

As a former co-caregiver, Rick Lauber helped and supported his own aging parents. His mother had Parkinson's and Leukemia and his father had Alzheimer's. Rick learned that caregiving is challenging and used writing to personally cope.

His stories became two books, Caregiver's Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide.

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