Humans are social creatures. Interacting with friends and family is an important part of staying healthy. This is true at any age, but especially when we get older.
Aging adults who maintain close relationships with others live longer than those who are isolated. Socializing has been shown to reduce the risk of physical conditions like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular issues. It lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A study of 2,249 women in California was published in the July 2008 edition of the American Journal of Public Health. The researchers found that older participants who maintained large social circles had a reduced risk of dementia and delayed or prevented cognitive impairment.
It’s not always easy to make time to visit a loved one. It may even be impossible in some situations. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many assisted living facilities to shut their doors to visitors. In other cases, loved ones may live far away and not have the ability to be there for face-to-face interactions.
Families who face these situations should consider alternatives to in-person visits. Modern technology makes it possible to be there for your senior loved one, even when distance, restrictions, or other factors create physical barriers between you.
Assisted Living of Scottsdale encourages families to try any of the suggestions listed below. Even if you can meet in person, adding a few of these methods will allow you to stay in touch more often.
- Plan a Time for Video Calls
Video calls are a great way to recreate the face-to-face experience. Smartphones usually have apps that make setup easy. If your senior loved one has a mobile phone, help them install an app that can facility video calls. A caregiver at their facility may be able to assist.
This method is ideal for one-on-one and group discussions. You can also plan calls while in unique places, like a local park or on vacation. It shows that you are thinking about your loved one and gives them a glimpse of new places to stimulate their minds and imaginations.
- Take a Virtual Tour as a Family
Activities can be difficult if you cannot be there in person. COVID-19 restrictions have emphasized the value of virtual tours. Many museums offered online tours that can be accessed through any web browser.
Schedule a video call and take a virtual tour together. This is a fun activity that can help spark conversations. Learning about new people, places, animals, or cultures is also a good way to stimulate the brain while you bond.
- Write a Letter to Your Loved One
There is something special about receiving a letter. With so many things going digital, most people do not receive handwritten messages from friends and family anymore.
Consider writing your loved one a letter, just like they used to do years ago. This lets them feel the excitement of receiving mail and gives them another way to connect with you. You can even add a few special touches like drawings from the kids or a photograph.
- Call Your Loved One More Often
Phone calls are easy. Plan to call your senior on a regular basis. This could be once a week, once a day, or whatever frequency works for both of you.
The call doesn’t have to be long. It should be an opportunity to share recent events, talk about memories, or discuss ideas or interests. It’s a chance to reconnect that requires minimal setup or technology.
Social isolation is one of the hidden risks of the pandemic. If you already call your loved one, consider doing so more often. This can help prevent depression and allow you to check in and make sure they are healthy and happy.
- Send a Text Message Just Because
Text messages are another easy way to connect with seniors. While texts are a good communication tool, remember to also call or use another method as well. Typed messages are less personal than hearing someone’s voice or seeing their face while they speak.
Texting is also a good way to share photographs. Show grandparents how big the grandkids have gotten, share vacation pictures, or send a smile to brighten their day.
- Connect on Social Media
Seniors who are a little more tech-savvy may enjoy social media. The entire purpose of these platforms is to get people to connect. It’s easy, fast, and free to use. It also lets them interact with a larger group of people, including friends, family, old neighbors, and anyone else that they may want to stay in touch with.
Social media also has the benefit of multiple ways to interact. Most include public posts, private messages, live chats, and photo and video sharing.
- Organize a Window Visit
The window visit is a newer concept that has become popular after the discovery of COVID-19. This option will require an in-person visit, so it may not work for everyone. You may also need to contact the assisted living facility to make sure that this is allowed and the best way to do it to stay within their health and safety guidelines.
During a window visit, your loved one remains inside the building while you are outside near a window. You can see each other and have a conversation, but you cannot physically touch. If your loved one has difficulty hearing, you can call them during your visit to make conversations easier.
- Set Up a Blog for Your Senior
Blogs are both a great tool for communication and a fun hobby for seniors who enjoy writing or storytelling. Set up a blog for your senior and teach them how to post. You may need to provide a tablet or other device if they do not have one available.
Typing on mobile phones isn’t easy, especially for anyone who may have dexterity or vision issues. Consider the needs of your senior and supply them with hardware that will accommodate their blog writing. For example, consider giving them a device that lets you plug in a PC keyboard, so they don’t have to use small letters on a smartphone screen. A regular keyboard may work, or you can find one that has large print if needed.
Share your loved one’s blog with the family so that they can leave comments or use blog posts as inspiration for conversations the next time they call.
Learn More About Connecting with Seniors
Staff at Assisted Living of Scottsdale can provide suggestions and recommendations for connecting with your senior loved one. We can discuss options and advise you of any concerns related to health and wellbeing.
Take on an active role in your relationship with your senior and help them stay social, even when you cannot be together in person. Contact Assisted Living of Scottsdale to learn about visiting our facility or follow our blog for more information on senior mental health and safety.