Five ideas for countering social isolation among seniors

Jul-20-2017

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Five for Fighting is the one-man band of John Ondrasik. In 2005, he released the song World, which posed the question:

What kind of world do you want?

Although the song is aimed at a young audience, it's a poignant question for people aged 65 and older to consider. As you age, what kind of world do you want to create for yourself? The song advises, "Think anything."

Most seniors would not envision living a world filled with loneliness, yet many end up that way. The resulting world they inhabit is often one of long days and unending aloneness. But it doesn't have to continue. For many, it's time to re-think the world they live in.

Nonprofits, health care and governmental organizations have begun to recognize the growing issue of social isolation among our senior population and remedies do exist.

Here are a few strategies to consider:

1.  Reach out to others.

Seniors should be encouraged to volunteer, join interest groups, and essentially reach out to others instead of sitting passively at home waiting for the phone or doorbell to ring. Older people of all abilities can benefit from regular attendance at community or group gatherings, even if it's just conversation over coffee once a week.

Most cities offer day programs at senior activity centers that provide plenty of opportunities to connect with others. If an older person has recently lost a spouse, or suffers from a medical condition such as Parkinson's disease, support groups can prove extremely beneficial to improving mental and physical health.   

One of the biggest obstacles many seniors face is transportation. If getting there is an issue, contact your local transit authority. Most, if not all, provide some type of transportation for the elderly and handicapped.

2. Get started with a home assistance service.

Many organizations exist now to cater to the needs of elderly people, particularly the homebound. They provide services that range from nursing care to simply companionship and help with household chores. Costs can vary, so it's important to compare services and prices. If affordability is an issue, check with your local agency on aging to see if it can provide services at a greatly reduced rate.

3. Adopt a pet.

While kitty cannot engage  in a meaningful conversation, many older people find the companionship of a pet can dramatically reduce feelings of loneliness. Dog walks, in particular, can create opportunities to connect with others who are also out and about.

4. Take a group travel trip.

For making friends and having fun, many seniors find group travel is the way to go. Many travel agencies offer trips geared specifically to people aged 65 and above. Friendships made on the trips can last for years, providing additional opportunities for companionship.

5. Consider making the move to a retirement community.

Naturally, you would expect this recommendation to be included in our blog post, but at MRC communities, we continually witness dramatic turnarounds in mental and physical health when people move in and begin to experience consistent connectedness with others. In our next blog post, we'll share some residents' reactions as the enter and discover a new world at MRC communities.


MRC operates six multi-level retirement communities in Texas and five affordable housing communities under the auspices of the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD). To explore the vibrant, connected lifestyle we offer, visit mrcaff.org.