Art Aiello is a writer and editor based in Waukesha, WI.
It’s likely that many of us can easily recall a friend or loved one’s mother or father, who despite being in their 80s or 90s, travels regularly, volunteers and visits often with close friends. Such is not always the case, however. Age, physical infirmities and distance from friends, children or loved ones, for example, can cause some seniors to withdraw into their homes — and from the world.
With such isolation comes unique risks — both psychological and physical. More than 6 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from clinical depression, and this can lead to more than double the risk for heart disease and illness. Even worse, Americans between 80 and 84 are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as the average person. Furthermore, isolation and the loneliness it brings can increase the risk of dementia or cognitive decline and lead to elder abuse.
If you have an older friend or loved one at risk of being isolated, there are many things you can do to encourage them to remain active — and thus happier and healthier.
For instance, you can help them get out of the house by ensuring they have a reliable source of transportation. If they own a car, you can help them ensure it remains safe and in good repair. Age and physical infirmities might preclude some people from driving on their own; however, in which case you can help them find services that will transport them to and from places and events. Many nonprofit organizations offer transportation services — in the way of cars, vans or buses — for your loved ones that don’t drive, that will get them to shopping centers or special events. Many offer door-to-door service, as well, so that destinations are not limited. Some are fee-based services, so be sure to explore all available options.
If the people in your life who use the Motivo Tour walker, not only will they be able to more easily get around in stores, shopping centers and at events, but they will be able to easily take the Tour with them wherever they go. The Motivo Tour is designed to be lightweight — weighing only 20 lbs. — and it folds quickly and easily for storage in an automobile trunk or in a van, shuttle or bus.
Many such transportation services are faith-based. That is one of several reasons why it’s also important to encourage the seniors in your life who are religious to continue to participate in their churches or worship centers. A 1997 study in the American Journal of Public Health indicated that seniors who regularly attended religious services had a lower rate of mortality than those who did not. Additionally, regular church or worship service attendance encourages social networking, and many religious organizations offer programs and volunteer opportunities that allow for interaction with others.
Speaking of which, providing the seniors close to you with volunteer opportunities is an excellent way to help them stay active. Seniors tend to benefit more than others from volunteer work, not only because it gets them up and moving and provides them with a social network from which they can make friends, but more importantly because it gives them a sense of purpose. For many seniors who might have spent much of their adult lives working a job or raising a family, the lack of goals for them to achieve on a given day can lead them to withdraw. Volunteering re-instills in them the drive they once had, and gives them a reason to be active.
Of course, one of the easiest ways to encourage the seniors you love to remain active is to stay involved in their lives. Volunteer with them, take them shopping or invite them over for a visit. Certainly they will benefit, but so will you.
Has a senior close to you found a great way to remain active? Tell us your stories on Facebook or Twitter.