My great aunt lives in a rural community near Grand Haven, Michigan. We made it up to see her during the holidays and I’ve been worried about her since we left. Physically she seems to be doing well. She is managing her medications on her own, is able to safely drive herself to the grocery store and necessary appointments, and prepare her own meals. But she doesn’t really do much else.
It feels like she is very isolated and lonely. While she was happy having our family around for a few days, my fear is that she is depressed. I think she needs to be around people more. She was always a very social person. My husband and I aren’t sure what to do to help her.
Calista in Ann Arbor, Michigan
You are probably right to be concerned about your great aunt’s well-being. In recent years, isolation among older adults has been proven to contribute to a variety of issues ranging from earlier mortality to malnutrition. Being isolated and lonely can also put a senior loved one at greater risk for becoming the victim of a fraud, especially door-to-door home repair scams.
If you are confident your great aunt is safe driving, you might want to begin by encouraging her to become involved in volunteer work. There is an organization called Volunteer Match you might want to explore on her behalf. The site allows you to search for volunteer opportunities by zip code and interest. If your aunt is a nature lover or children, for example, you can look for organizations near her who are seeking volunteers.
Senior centers are another great avenue for older adults to connect with their peers. You can find the one closest to her by visiting Michigan Association of Senior Centers. Members have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of events each month including Valentine’s Day luncheons, tax preparation workshops, and Chair Yoga. Most are free or relatively inexpensive.
A move to an independent living community might be another avenue to explore. Residents have their own private apartment or cottage, but still have friendship and support nearby. It gives older adults the opportunity to enjoy life enrichment activities, wellness programs, and transportation services. All without the worries about home repairs or maintenance tasks!
I hope this gives you a few ideas for helping your great aunt become more active and engaged with life.
Our newest community, The Village of Appledorn West in Holland, is open! If you or an older loved one would like to tour our independent living apartments or learn more about our assisted living community that will open in the spring of 2015, please stop by or call us at (616) 846-4700