6 Ways to Combat Social Isolation

6 Ways to Combat Social Isolation

Found In: Activities Articles

Social isolation refers to a lack of contact with friends, family and the community. Older people living in residential care communities are especially at risk of being socially isolated.
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Humans thrive on being part of communities, interacting with family and friends and having interests outside the home.

Yet, despite the leaps in technology and enhanced avenues for communication, there's a concerning trend of increasing social isolation and loneliness.

Social isolation refers to a lack of meaningful connections with friends, family, and the wider community. Older people living in residential care communities are especially at risk.

Groups at risk of social isolation

Some common groups of people at risk of social isolation include:

  • The elderly
  • People living with mental illness
  • People living with disability
  • Refugees
  • Ethnic minorities

Research highlights the profound impact of insufficient social connections on individuals' health and well-being. As social beings, our sense of 'belonging' to a network of friends, a religious community, or an extensive extended family is closely associated with increased longevity and improved overall welfare.

Benefits of a Strong Social Network

The positive impact that social interaction can have on health and emotional well-being is well-documented. Some of the documented benefits of regular social interaction include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Increased life expectancy
  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease
  • Improved cognitive abilities
  • Improved physical health
  • Reduced risk of mental health issues (depression)

Reasons why People feel Socially Isolated:

Some of the reasons that can make people feel socially isolated include:

  • Loss of a partner or friends
  • Loss of independence: moving into residential care
  • Low self-esteem
  • Health factors: poor mobility, chronic illness
  • Sensory impairments: vision, hearing
  • Financial hardship
  • Living with disability
  • Inadequate environment: living far away from amenities
  • Lack of awareness of what services are available

Social Inclusion in Residential Care

Social inclusion in residential care encompasses proactive measures activity professionals can implement to engage individuals in community participation while respecting their autonomy and individual choices.

It's important to recognize that some residents may seek solitude.These individuals, often referred to as 'loners', may be prevalent in residential care settings.  Encouraging them to participate in programmed activities or leave their rooms can pose challenges for activity professionals. Their wishes should be respected, once depression and other medical diagnosis have been ruled out.

6 Approaches to Social Inclusion in Residential Care

Activity professionals play an important role in helping their clients cope with social isolation. Planning and designing a broad selection of appropriate activities to meet an individual's needs and interests is essential.

Many approaches to social inclusion have been evolving over the years. Each approach involves a multitude of possible interventions to support social inclusion. Here are some examples:

1. Volunteer Visitation Program
Initiating a Volunteer Program is a crucial step for every activity professional. Alternatively, joining a government volunteer agency or a charity group's volunteer network can provide clients with a spectrum of social and emotional support. Volunteers bring valuable experiences and lifelong skills to share, in addition to offering friendship and companionship.

2. Intergenerational Programs
Intergenerational activities unite individuals of various ages to engage in shared activities. These activities should be carefully planned to achieve specific goals and held regularly. Initiating partnerships with local schools, including primary and high schools, is an excellent starting point. Additionally, reaching out to a Playgroup Association to invite infants and their mothers for regular visits can be highly beneficial. Facilitating connections between elders and children proves to be mutually advantageous.

3. Gender-specific Programs
Residential care facilities sometimes exhibit a bias towards female recreational activities, possibly due to the higher number of female residents. However, it's essential to consider whether males are truly uninterested.

Men typically gravitate towards activities like boxing, race cars, action movies, army discussions, home improvement, furniture restoration, and war documentaries – activities that may not typically engage women. Implementing gender-specific activities twice a week can help address this bias, fostering opportunities for male residents to bond with one another and share stories.

4. Health & Fitness
Promoting physical activity among aging individuals is paramount for healthy aging. Suitable exercises for residential care settings include yoga, tai chi, seated exercises, movement to music, stretching, and walks. The extent of physical activity required varies based on age and health level. Regular exercise can mitigate reduced muscle strength, gait issues, and impaired balance commonly associated with aging.

5. Horticultural Program
A horticultural garden program offers an excellent opportunity for reminiscing and fostering friendships. Initiate a garden project in collaboration with residents, involving them in decisions regarding design, location, construction, and garden type. Activity professionals can seek guidance and support from local garden clubs or botanical gardens. Engaging relatives, friends, and volunteers enhances a sense of accomplishment for the entire community.

6. Social Networking Program
Introducing older adults to information technology may seem challenging, but it can be highly rewarding. Making relevant technology more accessible to seniors can be an engaging and fulfilling endeavor. Tools such as email, Skype, and Facebook can bridge distances, bringing families together despite geographical barriers.

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Comments   Post a Comment

Susan 30th Oct 2020 Activity Director
Wow John what a picture
Thanks for sharing
John 29th Oct 2020 Lifestyle Worker
One of our new residents, was a champion orchid grower. His daughter brings in orchids from his shed. Our garden group planted them all around the facility. And cut orchids in vases inside everywhere .
Some roses from our garden. And Waratah.
Talita 29th Oct 2020
Beautiful John! Thanks so much for sharing.
karen 26th Jan 2017 Activities Officer
I chose residents who already had an interest in gardening. Then purchased pots,soil and plants from Bunnings. Choose an afternoon and go for it. Some residents were happy to do the potting. Some just wanted to watch. Be prepared to water and weed. Once they are flowering I put the pots on a trolley and take them to residents in bed and/or set up a display in the front entry. I always writeup an activity plan so that I have thought things through, have a list of resourse needed etc and then evaluate at the end. This is important for organising any activity. So, give it a go. Cheers, Karen Hynds
Kate 29th Nov 2013 leisure&Lifestyle assistant
Enjoyed reading your segment on "Social Isolation" very interesting and helpful
solange 28th Nov 2013 Diversional Therapist
Great idea Karen. You may also try growing herbs and succulents.
Cheryl 27th Nov 2013 diversiona therapist
I love this idea, I have just started working in a dementia specific unit in the sundowning hours and am trying to get organised. this time can be quite challenging so any ideas are good thanks
karen 27th Nov 2013 Activities Officer
I recently started a garden group with some of our residents. We started with petunias and marigolds in pots,seated at tables of suitable height. The location had to have sunshine and water plus room for 5-6 residents/wheelchairs etc.They have enjoyed having morning tea in this area as I do some of the "Maintenance" jobs.
Laura 23rd Jan 2017
Hi Karen,

How did u started your garden group its sounds like a great activity. I only started to work as Activities Coordinator.
Thank You
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