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In most senior care communities, there are residents who prefer solitude or have introverted tendencies. These individuals enjoy being in their bedrooms and often choose not to actively seek interactions with others.
Approximately 25% of the population is naturally inclined towards solitude or introversion based on statistical data. It is just one more in the myriad of possible personality traits unless clinical assessment deems otherwise.
Loners are people who avoid or do not actively seek human interaction; they prefer to be alone. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves rather than talk openly. This does not necessarily mean that introverts prefer to be alone, but their thoughtful and reflective nature causes them to be quieter by nature.
Both terms, although very different in meaning, are used interchangeably to describe people who enjoy solitude. A loner chooses to be alone and avoid socializing while an introvert feels drained after socializing and needs time out to recharge.
Related: How to Motivate Residents in Long Term Care
The word ‘loner’, when used in the context of aging often carries a negative connotation. However, the commonly accepted belief that we should all be social creatures is flawed. Loners can be independent, creative and happy people in their own way.
Solitude is a normal human need and much emphasis is placed on being ‘social’ when a reasonable lack of social activity is perfectly natural.
Determining whether individuals who isolate themselves are experiencing some sort of mental illness (depression, anxiety, social phobia, etc) or social alienation can be challenging. Here are some considerations that may be indicators of underlying mental health concerns:
It is important to approach these situations with empathy, and respect, and without making assumptions. Each individual is unique, and professional assessment can help differentiate between personal preferences, mental health concerns, and social alienation.
The presence of loners and introverts in long-term care facilities can present challenges. Sometimes their need for solitude and personal space may conflict with the limitations imposed by the care setting, leading to a heightened risk of isolation.
To effectively address this challenge, it is crucial for staff, particularly those involved in activities, to recognize and accommodate the needs of introverted or loner residents.
By implementing strategies that strike a balance between respecting their desire for solitude and ensuring social engagement, the negative consequences of isolation can be mitigated.
Related: Social Isolation - How To Support Your Clients
1. Bird Keeping: A low-maintenance bird such as a budgie, cockatiel, or finch in a spacious cage can be a wonderful companion for a loner.
2. Weather Station: Loners can participate independently in this captivating activity, measuring temperature, rainfall, humidity, and other elements. Weather Station Activities
3. Pet Companionship: If your facility allows it, consider adopting a small, quiet, and friendly pet as a suitable companion. Pets in Senior Living Communities
4. Mobile Library: Introduce a mobile library service on a weekly or monthly basis, offering large print books, audiobooks, and CDs. Mobile Library Trolley
5. Bird Watching: Encourage residents to observe birds in their own backyard. Investing in a pair of binoculars will enhance the experience. Bird-Watching Activities
6. Gardening Spaces: Allocate small garden plots or containers for residents to tend to plants and flowers, providing a rewarding activity that can be done individually.
7. Tech Workshops: Offer workshops on the use of technology devices, so residents can explore digital resources, connect with loved ones, or engage in online hobbies.
8. One-on-One-Visits: Loners often enjoy strong connections with staff, volunteers, and residents through shared interests and mutual respect. Tips for One-on-One Visits
9. Helping Hands: Ask residents to help you with a task such as sorting envelopes or organizing materials for a craft activity. People like to contribute and feel important.
10. Listening Areas: Set up comfortable listening areas where residents can enjoy music or audiobooks using headphones.
11. Puzzle Stations: Leave a jigsaw out at all times. Residents can put in pieces when they feel like it. You will be surprised how many pop in and add a few pieces every now and then.
12. Coloring Activities: Provide high-quality coloring materials and intricate coloring sheets to engage loners in a calming and creative activity.
13. Independent Exercise Options: Provide access to exercise equipment, such as stationary bikes or treadmills, allowing residents to engage in physical activity independently.
14. Collage Crafting: One of the most versatile art activities, collages can be made from anything you have at hand: fabric, leather, newspaper, nails, safety pins, buttons, etc. Collages can be abstract or based on a theme and can be made in the privacy of one’s own room.
15. Movie Time: Arrange private screenings or small group movie sessions where residents can watch films of their choice in a comfortable and relaxed environment.
Always endeavor to create an environment that respects and supports the preferences of loners and introverts, allowing them to engage in activities that suit their individual interests and provide moments of peace and fulfillment.
You could adapt some of these activities
You could give them an activity packet and then help them to start some things in the packet
You could get them coloring pages and markers or pencils to color them with