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Staying Social is Good Medicine

Posted August 15, 2012 in Altoona, Advice Column, Ankeny, Pleasant Hill

We were made for human contact — we enjoy and crave human interaction with each other.

One of the many concerns that families have is the social isolation that their senior loved ones start to experience as they age.  Physical challenges and limitations can make interacting and socializing very challenging for people who rely on walkers, wheelchairs or motorized scooters for their mobility.

Oftentimes I think we underestimate how being social and interacting can affect our overall well-being. If we are deprived of this interaction, it can result in a condition that can be detrimental to one’s health — that condition is called loneliness.

Have you heard, or even made these excuses yourself?
•    No reason to get dressed or take a shower today, since I’m not going anywhere.
•    I don’t feel like cooking for just me — I hate eating alone.
•    I’ll just sit here and watch TV a little while longer, since there isn’t anything better to do.
•    Who cares if the house isn’t cleaned? I’m the only one who sees it anyway.
•    It’s too much effort to do the things that I used to enjoy, so what’s the use?

This type of behavior or thought pattern can be a recipe for disaster, and can cause a downward spiral for your senior loved one. Sometimes depression can transpire after days and months of this type of thinking and limited interaction, and many times you might notice a cognitive decline.  We need each other. We are never too old to be social or to enjoy the things that were once important to us. Sure, it may be a little more challenging, but think about this — what if your elderly loved one had a reason to get up — fun and exciting activities planned, delicious meals shared with others, help getting dressed and showered, help keeping their home cleaned, and an exercise class daily to stay moving. What difference do you think that would make in their overall health?

Numerous studies have shown (and I’ve seen firsthand) how important socialization can be for the elderly. Don’t underestimate how important this is, and do what you can to provide these social opportunities to those you love.

Information provided by Shelly Charter, Valley View Village, 2571 Guthrie Ave., Des Moines, 265-2571.

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