Health care professionals have always suspected that loneliness in seniors can cause health problems beyond depression. Newer research proves just how right they are. We now know social isolation increases a senior’s risk for a variety of serious health problems ranging from obesity and high blood pressure to diabetes. In fact, it’s even linked to a shorter life.
The good news is there are many ways older adults can stay active and engaged with life. One of them is by volunteering their time and talent to a cause they believe it. Besides being a lot of fun, volunteerism has a positive impact on the mind, body and spirit.
Benefits of Volunteering after You Retire
Most senior volunteers will tell you just how rewarding the experience is for them. About nine million seniors serve as volunteers. Experts say those older adults who volunteer 100 hours a year volunteering receive the greatest rewards. They benefit from better mental and physical health.
Aging experts believe volunteerism has such a powerful impact on seniors because it provides them with a sense of purpose they might be missing after they retire from their jobs and the kids are grown and gone. That in turn leads to a more physically and socially active lifestyle.
How to Find a Meaningful Volunteer Opportunity in Michigan
Seniors in Michigan have a variety of volunteer opportunities from which to choose. It might help to first decide what time of project you are interested in and how much time you have to dedicate to your volunteer work. Also think about the skills, hobbies and interests you have and are willing to share.
These sites can help you explore opportunities near you and see what agencies are looking for in their volunteers:
- Volunteer Michigan is a great organization that helps Michigan residents find opportunities near them that match their interests. The site even has a place where you can share your volunteer story to help encourage other Michigan seniors to join the fun!
- Volunteer Match is a nationwide organization with opportunities from coast to coast. You can choose from a variety of categories including animal and arts organizations.
- United Way of America can also help you find a volunteer project near you. They do so by connecting you with your local United Way office. Each local office maintains a database of volunteer opportunities for their partner agencies.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if health conditions or mobility challenges make it tough for you to drive or even leave your home. Some organizations provide transportation for volunteers. And there are also Virtual Volunteer opportunities for homebound seniors that allow you to participate from the comfort of your own home.
My siblings and I have been dividing up caregiving duties for our father for several years. We all live about the same distance from him, and it’s worked well until recently. Dad’s personal care needs have increased, and we are struggling to keep up with everything.
My brothers and I think it is time to consider assisted living. My dad has gotten a little unsteady on his feet and has come close to falling several times. He’s also isolated living in his big house alone. I worry something will happen to him, and we won’t know.
Could moving to an assisted living community help my dad? How will moving benefit him?
Tina in Midland, MI
Benefits of Assisted Living Communities
While every situation is unique, some red flags indicate an older adult might not be safe living alone in their home. Your dad seems to be displaying some of the most common ones. Choosing to make a move before an emergency arises gives you more time to make an informed decision.
If you are trying to talk with your dad about the benefits of assisted living, here are a few points to include:
- Environment: Assisted living communities are designed with senior safety in mind. Some of the standard features and amenities may offer the support your dad needs. Handrails in hallways, accessible bathrooms, grab bars in key locations, good lighting, and single-floor living are a few.
- Socialization: Loneliness and isolation are linked to a decline in health among older people. So, you are right to worry about your dad feeling lonely. It can contribute to depression, loss of core strength, diabetes, cardiac disease, and more. In an assisted living community, residents benefit from formal and informal activities throughout the day.
- Nutrition: Depending on the community, residents usually enjoy a variety of in-house dining and menu options. Seniors who move to an assisted living community often find their health improves simply by having easy access to well-balanced meals. Research shows that poor nutrition is sometimes linked to a higher risk for falls.
- Transportation: One of the services assisted living residents use most often is transportation. Residents can go on planned community outings, such as to a local shopping mall or restaurant. In addition, they can schedule transportation for appointments. This service allows seniors to maintain a sense of independence.
- Medication management: Assisted living caregivers also handle all the details of managing residents’ medications. They assist at dosage time, order refills, and watch for adverse reactions. This brings peace of mind to residents and their loved ones.
I hope this information is helpful to you and your family, Tina! Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana
A family-owned business for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities has communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. We invite you to call the location nearest you to learn more today!
My 92-year-old mom has been living alone in the home she’s been in for decades. Until recently, she’s been fine doing so with the help of an in-home caregiver. Lately, however, it seems like her quality of life is declining.
Because I live four hours away, I can’t visit every week, especially during winter. While her caregiver does a great job tending to her physical needs, my mom is isolated and lonely. During my holiday visit, I tried to talk to Mom about moving to a senior living community. It seems like that would give her an opportunity to participate in activities and make new friends.
Before I could begin the discussion, my mom got upset. Though I believe she doesn’t feel safe on her own, she seems afraid of moving to senior living. I dropped the subject and am looking for advice on how to identify what might be holding her back. Can you help?
Wendy in Holland, MI
Why a Senior Might Resist Moving
What a good observation. Sometimes adult children become frustrated with a parent who won’t consider moving because they don’t understand how tough the decision can be. And an aging parent might not be willing or able to identify just what is making them so resistant. By understanding some of the common fears older adults have about moving, you might be better able to help your mother make an informed decision.
Here are a few reasons seniors cite for not wanting to move to a senior living community:
- Giving up the family home: This generation of older adults often live in their homes for decades, just like your mother. She likely has many happy memories attached to her house. Selling it and moving anywhere may seem like she is leaving a piece of the family behind.
- Fear of change: Many people fear making a change at any stage in life. But for older adults, change often seems even more difficult. As you talk with your mom about moving, try to keep this in mind and move slowly.
- Believing the myths: There are a variety of myths and misperceptions about senior living communities. Many are based on the old, institutional style nursing homes that were so common when this generation of older adults was young. They don’t understand how vibrant today’s senior communities are.
- Perceived losses: Your mom may resist moving because she fears losing aspects of her home life. Loss of freedom, privacy, and independence rank high on the list of concerns for many seniors.
- Running out of money: Many people believe senior living communities are expensive and only for the rich. An older adult might worry that they will run out of money if they move. In reality, senior living communities can be an affordable solution as many of the older adult’s current home expenses are included in the base fee.
I hope this helps as you try to come up with a solution that will improve your mom’s quality of life. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
Consider Heritage Senior Communities
With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, you’ll find a variety of options from which to choose. Whether it’s the resort area of Traverse City or a community in southeast Michigan’s popular Saline, we extend an open invitation to you to tour a Heritage community today!
Today’s assisted living communities offer a wide range of services and amenities, from life enrichment activities to transportation, beauty/barber salons, and safe, thoughtfully designed apartments. These services support the care, independence, quality of life, and safety of seniors.
Here’s a quick overview of the benefits assisted living communities offer to older adults.
Why Move to an Assisted Living Community?
- On-site services: Residents appreciate the variety of amenities available to them. From a beauty/barber shop to on-site worship opportunities, the services offered in an assisted living community make life a little easier.
- Maintenance-free lifestyle: Another major convenience of an assisted living community is that household tasks, repairs, and general maintenance are handled for residents. Everything from snow removal and lawn care to laundry and appliance repair is handled by staff. That allows residents to spend their time in more enjoyable ways.
- Safe, secure environment: Assisted living communities promote safety and security. Residents’ apartments have accessible bathrooms, including step-free showers and sturdy grab bars. Emergency call systems, a fire suppression system, and handrails in hallways are standard.
- Well-balanced meals: Seniors who live in a private residence often find cooking to be too much work. Mobility challenges or driving restrictions can make trips to the grocery store difficult. In an assisted living community, well-balanced meals and snacks are included in the monthly fee. Most communities give residents a variety of menu choices.
- Wellness programs: One of the more popular amenities of assisted living is wellness programs. From stretching to chair yoga, walking groups, strength training, and gardening, fitness is a core element of resident life. Residents also benefit from an around-the-clock care team. They are available to assist with tasks ranging from medication management to toileting and personal care. At Heritage communities, residents also benefit from licensed practical nurses complete monthly wellness checks.
- Life enrichment activities: Seniors who live alone might feel disconnected, lonely, and isolated, especially those who have given up driving. It can take a toll on physical and mental health. With a move to an assisted living community, an older adult can participate in life enrichment activities every day. They can join as many or as few as they choose. Movie nights, religious services, card groups, picnics, art workshops, quilting, and book clubs are just a few of the activities offered.
- Transportation services: One more benefit offered by assisted living communities is transportation. Most have routine transportation routes, in addition to being available for physician appointments and other necessary errands. The transportation team usually schedules arrangements for residents.
Answering Common Questions about Assisted Living
We know older adults and their families have many questions about assisted living. Industry terminology can also be confusing. From costs and financing to medication management, our Frequently Asked Questions page can help you find answers.
Many people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by connecting with others on social media and spending more time online. While it’s a safe way to stay in touch with loved ones when you are trying to avoid large gatherings, there can be downsides. Social media platforms have become a leading source of misinformation and family disagreements. They can also lead to unrealistic expectations.
For a caregiver who might already be struggling with isolation and stress, it can be difficult to find a healthy balance for social media use. Let’s look at the pros and cons of social media and how to tell if you might be overdoing it.
The Benefits of Staying Active on Social Media
Some benefits of participating in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social channels include:
- Staying informed: Social media makes it easy to keep up with your favorite organizations and groups. This is especially helpful if you are trying to limit the amount of time you spend in public or if you are a caregiver for a loved one who isn’t safe staying alone.
- Sharing with loved ones: You’ll also find platforms like Facebook to be a good avenue for connecting with and sharing news, photos, and videos with loved ones.
- Finding virtual events: The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the number of virtual activities people can participate in. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are good places to find programs you can join.
These are just a few of the many advantages of social media. But it’s important to know about the disadvantages, too.
The Downside of Social Media
Unfortunately, the downside of social media platforms has become increasingly obvious and includes:
- Spreading misinformation on important topics, such as the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and how to protect yourself from the virus
- Arguing about politics and what is—or isn’t—credible news
- Creating unrealistic goals, from how you look to the type of house you live in
- Contributing to a sedentary lifestyle, the dangers of which are linked to as many health risks as smoking
How can you tell if your social media time is helping you feel less isolated or adding to your caregiver stress?
Here are a few tips to evaluate your social media use and see if it’s time to make adjustments.
Evaluating Social Media–Related Stress
If you are trying to assess whether your social media habits are helping you feel connected or having a negative impact on your well-being, here are a few factors to consider:
- Time involved: How much time do you spend on social media each day? Staring at your computer or device screen for too many hours can harm your eyes. Spending too much time sitting can also negatively impact your health. You might need to track your time so you can objectively evaluate the situation.
- Relationship changes: Are you fighting with friends and family you would never disagree with in person? Have your offline friendships been damaged by disagreements that started on a platform like Facebook? People often feel much freer to express their opinions online than they do in person. If you’ve seen your relationships suffer, it may be best to decrease your social media time.
- Increased anxiety: There’s no disputing that social media can be a source of anxiety and stress for many. Facebook is often the worst. Pay attention to how you feel before you log on and after you log off of social media. Is there a change? That can be key to determining if you need to take a social media break.
If you aren’t ready to give up your social media interactions but need to reduce the stress it causes, pay attention to what is making you feel uncomfortable. Are certain family members cyberbullies? Are some organizations you follow causing you stress? Choosing not to follow them on social media may help you enjoy yourself online.
Reduce Caregiver Stress by Joining an Online Support Group
Another online resource for caregivers to consider joining is an online support group. It’s a good way to connect when the person you are caring for needs constant supervision or if you are limiting the time you spend in group gatherings. How to Connect with an Online Caregiver Support Group has tips to help you get started.