“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
Chances are, your parents directed that sentiment at you when you were a kid. Well, idle minds are bad for seniors, too: Older adults who have little to no social interaction are likely to have serious health issues.
According to a 2009 National Institutes of Health report, “The health risks posed by social isolation may be particularly severe for older adults. … A large body of psychological research has demonstrated a robust association between loneliness and worst health, including cardiovascular disease … and depression.”
Help your senior parent enjoy a more fulfilling life by encouraging social interaction. Here are eight options that your parent may find appealing.
1. Get out and see the world
Encourage your parent to spend more time away from home. According to aarp.org:
- In 2001, 11 percent of all trips in the U.S. were taken by people 65 and older.
- By 2009, that share was 12 percent. The total number of trips by older adults increased by 11 percent, to 45.5 billion. These include trips by all means of surface and water transportation.
2. Take a class – any class
Across the country, seniors are increasingly signing up for degree- and non-degree courses. Online or on campus, there’s a course that’s sure to interest your senior parent.
3. Plenty to do at senior centers
Instead of pursuing interests in various locations, your senior parent can sample various activities in one spot — the local senior center. Most centers have a roster of events that change daily. There’s the chance to participate in such things as bridge games, crocheting, pinochle, Scrabble and chair yoga. Some centers even offer services such as Meals on Wheels, grief support and legal aid.
4. Conquer an old fear
Public speaking … skydiving … race-car driving. If these and other pursuits are on your parent’s list of things that seem insurmountable, it may be time to tackle at least one of them.
5. Remain active and fit
Today, people in their 70s and 80s participate in various endurance events, as well as baseball and softball leagues and swim teams. And NBCnews.com reported that people over 55 represent nearly a quarter of health club members.
6. Don’t give up your day job
In a poll conducted by USA Today, UnitedHealthcare and the National Council on Aging, roughly 25 percent of seniors said they worked full or part time, and 76 percent said they worked because they wanted to stay active and productive.
7. Be an asset to the community
Volunteerism not only improves the lives of those who benefit from the help they receive, but also the lives of those who share their time and talents with others. For example, a Johns Hopkins University study noted that older adults who tutored children or took part in some other form of volunteer service were able to delay or even reverse declining brain function.
8. Take advantage of social media
Online connectivity isn’t just for young people. According to Forbes.com, “there are currently 39 million people aged 65 and older using Facebook, Twitter and Skype, making them the fastest growing age demographic on these sites.”
As the primary caregiver, your senior parent’s well-being is a top priority. Let Mom or Dad know that you are always on the lookout for activities to enhance and enrich day-to-day living.
For more information on the challenges of aging, download the “Parent Care Guide.”