5 Ways to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

5 Ways to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

Loneliness and isolation are more common as we grow older. A decreasing social circle, being out of the workforce, and mobility challenges are just a few contributing factors. Research is clear about the health risks linked to senior isolation. Some experts go as far as to liken these dangers to those associated with smoking and obesity.

Socially isolated older adults are at higher risk for:

  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Premature death

So, what can you do to prevent spending too much time alone? We have a few suggestions.

Combatting Isolation in Older Adults

  • Explore transportation options: If you only drive for necessary outings and avoid asking loved ones for rides, you might be spending more time at home. A couple of avenues to explore are ride-sharing services and senior transportation companies. Check with your local senior center or agency on aging to see if they are aware of any local options. Many maintain lists of reliable transportation providers who cater to older adults.
  • Volunteer your time: Another way to prevent isolation as you grow older is to volunteer for a local nonprofit organization. You’ll likely find a variety of opportunities close to home. Some may even offer transportation to and from their office. Check with your favorite organizations to see if they need volunteers or call the closest United Way office for suggestions. If in-person volunteering isn’t possible, you’ll likely still benefit from connecting with a virtual project. This article can help you find one.
  • Adopt a senior pet: Depending upon your situation and budget, you might find adopting an older dog or cat can help boost the spirit and prevent loneliness. Check with a local animal shelter to see what older animals are looking for a forever home. Younger adults and families with young children typically don’t rescue senior pets. That means older animals often spend longer amounts of time in shelters.
  • Explore senior centers and clubs: It’s common for older adults to find their social circle decreasing over the years. One way to remedy that is by joining or participating in senior groups and organizations. If you aren’t aware of any in your neighborhood, start by searching online for senior centers and senior fitness clubs. For those who belong to a religious institution, call and ask if they have any retiree groups.
  • Consider moving to senior living: One more solution to combat isolation and its associated health risks is moving to a senior living community. These communities are designed to promote connection and healthy aging. You’ll benefit from shared meals, daily life enrichment activities, and outings to nearby shopping centers, restaurants, and other popular destinations. Residents also find the daily informal gatherings that take place around the community to be a great way to develop new friendships.

Visit a Heritage Community This Summer

Summer is a great season to start your search for a senior living community. It will give you an opportunity to tour the community and take a stroll around the campus. Call the location nearest you to set up a time!

Using the Prompting Technique for Loved Ones with Dementia

Using the Prompting Technique for Loved Ones with Dementia

When a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, their verbal communication skills are impacted. Because of this, it’s essential that families explore new ways of communicating.

Some families find it useful to provide visual reminders. Examples include a sign with a picture of a cup on the cabinet where you store glasses or a photo of socks on the sock drawer.

Another option is to provide cue cards with photos for the senior to use when they need something and can’t express it. You could include photo prompts for food, water, a blanket, the bathroom, and more. On days when your family member is struggling, these tools can make communication less difficult.

One last suggestion that is worth the time it takes to master is prompting. You can use it to encourage a loved one with dementia to try to accomplish tasks on their own, but with a little direction from you.

Prompt Techniques for Adults with a Memory Impairment

While it can be tough for family caregivers to cope with their loved one’s inability to communicate, it’s probably even more frustrating for them. That’s further compounded when caregivers run out of patience and take over doing tasks completely. Instead, learn more about the types of prompts people with dementia may respond to.

  • Verbal prompts: Tasks that require memory and abstract thought are especially challenging when memory is impaired. Getting dressed in the morning or preparing for bed at night are two examples. While you may think it’s helpful to lay clothing out on your loved one’s bed, that’s really only step one of the process. By using verbal prompts, you’ll make it possible for the older adult to maintain a sense of independence. You could carry on a simple conversation while also guiding them step-by-step through the task. Keep the directions short, such as, “Take your shoes and socks off. Put your bathrobe on.” Giving a person with dementia too many steps to follow at once will force them to rely on short-term memory that is likely damaged.
  • Hand gestures: A person with memory loss will likely be able to follow gestures you provide one at a time. If you want them to brush their teeth for example, point to their toothbrush and toothpaste. Then pretend as if you are placing toothpaste on an invisible toothbrush and lifting it to your mouth. You might have to model this step twice and then mimic brushing your teeth. It will take longer than just doing it for your loved one, but they will feel more independent doing it for themselves.
  • Hand guidance: Though this one doesn’t allow for quite as much self-sufficiency, it still gives the senior a sense of independence. If your family member is struggling with a particular task, place your hand over or under theirs to act as a guide. Gently help your loved one overcome what is keeping them from succeeding, and then allow them to try again to finish the action. The idea is to provide just enough support as is necessary.

Memory Care Neighborhoods at Heritage

As the leading provider of dementia care in Michigan, caregivers in memory care neighborhoods at Heritage communities receive specialized training. It helps our staff to learn how to support the unique needs of people with memory loss. We invite you to schedule a private tour to learn more.

Should We Sell Our House Before or After Moving to Independent Living?

Should We Sell Our House Before or After Moving to Independent Living?

Dear Donna:

My husband and I are about to begin the search for an independent living community in Michigan. We are tired of home maintenance, repairs, and being tied down. Independent living seems like a solution that offers freedom and flexibility.

We are trying to figure out a timeline for everything. We will need to significantly downsize our belongs and sell our house. While we have savings and investments to help supplement our lifestyle for a while, the equity in our home is one of our biggest assets.

As we are working on our plan, we keep getting stuck on when to put our house up for sale. Should we start the process before we find an independent living community to move to or wait until after we’ve made our transition? Any advice would be much appreciated.


Alysha in Grand Haven, MI

When to Sell the House When You Are Downsizing to Senior Living

Dear Alysha:

This is a question we are asked quite often. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. But I can offer you a few suggestions on what you and your husband should consider.

  • How soon will you need the equity from the sale of your house?

Like you mentioned, a house is often a senior’s greatest financial asset. You’ll likely benefit from creating a budget that gives you an idea of when you will need the funds from the sale of your home to help pay your monthly fees.

Then consider the health of your local housing market. In a hot sellers’ market, it may be easy to move first and then sell. You won’t have to worry about when and if your house will sell.

Bridge loans are an option to consider if the market is slower. These allow you to use the equity you have in your house to finance a move to senior living. Many only require you to pay the interest on the loan until the house sells. Once your residence is sold, you can pay off the bridge loan. A variety of banks and lenders offer these programs.

  • Can you keep the house in show-ready condition?

If you’ve ever sold a house before you know how tough it can be to keep it show-ready at all times. You never know when a realtor is going to ask to bring a client by. A clean, clutter-free house generally suggests that the house is well maintained. However, the process of downsizing and packing isn’t usually tidy.

If your budget permits, you might find it less stressful to move, clean out the house, and then hire a staging company. Professional home stagers are experts at creating an environment that attracts buyers and closes deals more quickly. They’ll even bring in enough furniture and décor to help make the home look inviting.

  • Are you willing to accommodate showings at all hours?

Potential buyers might work and have busy family schedules. Or they may be visiting from out of town and have a tight timeline. This often results in requests for early-morning or late-evening showings. When you first list your house, you may even have multiple viewings in one day. While you can restrict access to certain days and times, it might cause you to miss out on a sale.

Also keep in mind that when a home is being shown to potential buyers, the real estate agent often asks the homeowners to be absent. It is important to consider whether these interruptions will pose a hardship.

I hope these tips help you and your husband decide what option is the best fit for your budget and future plans!

Kind regards,


Visit Independent Living at Heritage

We invite you to include a Heritage independent living community near you in your search. Call us today to schedule a tour!

Benefits of Container Gardening for People with Dementia

Benefits of Container Gardening for People with Dementia

Dear Donna:

A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with dementia. As a family, we’ve been managing the disease fairly well so far. But I do feel like we need to find more meaningful activities for her to engage in. I hope to give her more productive ways to pass time.

Mom was a lifelong gardener until the symptoms of her disease caused some mobility challenges. Gardening always gave her such a sense of contentment. This summer, I am thinking of trying to help her create and nurture container gardens. Does this seem like a hobby that would benefit a person with dementia? Do you have any tips?


JoAnna in Williamsburg, MI

Gardening Tips for Adults with Dementia

Dear JoAnna:

What a great idea! Window boxes, pots, hanging baskets, and raised flower/vegetable beds are good ways to allow older adults with mobility problems to enjoy this popular pastime. Engaging with nature has proven health benefits, including for people with dementia. It’s linked to lower stress, better sleep, and more positive self-esteem.

Here are a few tips that I hope will help you and your mom make the most of your gardening hobby this summer:

  • Look for pictures in magazines or on gardening websites.

One way to get started is by sitting down with your mom and flipping through old gardening magazines or visiting websites, such as Pinterest, to get some ideas. Save pictures of flowers and plants you and your mom like. It will help you better define your garden style. Some people find it helpful to come up with a color scheme for their flowers, like purple, pink, and yellow or red, purple, and white.

  • Identify locations for your containers or raised beds.

Your flower and vegetable choices will be directly impacted by the amount of sun or shade they receive each day. That’s why it’s important to identify where you will place your containers or raised beds. If space isn’t an issue for you and your yard has both sun and shade, you will likely be able to choose whatever plants you both like most. And don’t restrict yourself to just pots on the patio or porch if you have easy access to water. Hang pots from shepherd’s hooks near the shed or back door. Plant an herb garden in window boxes, or grow a cutting garden in a raised bed.

  • Invest in good potting soil.

One thing we’ve noticed in creating container gardens with our dementia care residents is how important good soil is to the plants’ health. Don’t just dig up dirt from your yard to fill the pots and raised beds. Instead, purchase one that is specifically designed for containers. Most of them have moisture container components that keep the pots from drying out too quickly. Your local independent garden center may sell a region-specific mix. If not, brands like Happy Frog, Miracle-Gro, or Espoma usually work well.

  • Take water into consideration.

Finally, as you are planning where to locate your containers, remember that they will need more frequent watering than in-ground flowers and vegetables. If you aren’t able to help your mom carry a watering can or drag a hose around the yard, be sure to keep your containers close to a water source or install drip irrigation. While tools like watering globes can help a little, they really aren’t a match for the hot, humid days of a Michigan or Indiana summer.

I hope these tips help you and your mom get your garden off to a great start!

Kind regards,


Visit a Heritage Dementia Care Program

Heritage is one of the leading providers of care for adults with dementia in the Great Lakes region. From our person-centered approach to care to our specialized training programs for caregivers, we help adults with a memory impairment enjoy their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you to talk with an experienced team member about specialty dementia care!