Many of us like to hibernate a bit in the winter, staying warm and cozy inside our homes. However, for seniors, particularly single seniors, reduced social interaction might lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. You can technically have one without the other but in reality, both issues are not good for one’s physical, mental and emotional health. Studies show that isolation and loneliness can lead to accelerated cognitive decline, disrupted sleep, elevated blood pressure, lowered immune system function, increased risk of falls and depression.
Cold weather and shortened days bring the obvious risks of slipping on ice, frostbite and dangerous driving conditions, making going outdoors a big challenge. We suggest two strategies for seniors to combat winter isolation:
Enlist support to get out of the house.
- If you have friends or family who are able to help you to and from the car and are comfortable driving in winter conditions, schedule a weekly outing with one or more of them. People appreciate having a scheduled time to help out.
- Or, hire a driving service which can range from volunteer seniors’ drivers to Access Calgary to specialized seniors driving companies. All three will help you in and out of the vehicle and to and from the building.
- Ask to join a neighbour, friend or family member on their errands. It would be lovely to have some company while grocery shopping or taking the dog to the vet.
- Volunteer. Being productive and adding value to a initiative or program is a great loneliness buster.
- Sign up for an Adult Day Program. Your day will be filled with social and physical interactions with the added benefit of a meal and often some health care services if required. Some Day Programs will provide transportation.
- Join senior’s club or group activity where you’ve made a commitment to attend. Perhaps join with a friend who is able to provide transportation support.
- Consider a trial stay at retirement community. You could move into a guest room for a few weeks or a few months and get a taste of retirement residence living. There are built-in social activities with meals, housekeeping and health care if needed.
- Investigate retirement residence options before you need them. Proactive Seniors Housing Support and Senior Care consultants are always happy to meet you at home to identify which retirement communities would suit you the best. We can also provide transportation and facility tour support if you are on your own.
Get creative in having people come to you.
- Get your groceries delivered. Most stores now provide inexpensive delivery service of online orders.
- Book those “maintenance” appointments that you don’t want to waste a summer day on. Many mobile service providers such as hair stylists, podiatrists, opticians and dental hygienists will come to you in the comfort of your own home.
- Start a winter project and hire professional support, a companion, or get a family member involved. Clean out and organize those closets, attics or basements. Start working on your family history. Get photos and home movies organized. Having a steady project to work on with another person is a great social activity and a great use of time on those snowy winter days.
- Get your estate in order. Many lawyers, financial and insurance advisors will make house calls. This is a great time to get your will, power of attorney, personal directive and estate plan all up to date.
- Begin a fitness program at home. Have a physiotherapist or fitness specialist come to your home to start help you progress a home exercise program.
- Build your Proactive Seniors Plan. Our consultants will come to you to create a plan for the coming years. Discussing support and care preferences when there aren’t time pressures is an ideal way to review future options.
- Visit friends and family through a screen. Learn how to use Skype or Face Time to video chat with your loved ones.
Vary your out-of-house and in-home visitor activities. The winter will fly by and you’ll get a lot accomplished as well. Keep in mind, even if you are very ‘comfortable in your own company’, having regular social contact has many positive results for your body, mind and soul. Proactive Seniors is happy to recommend and connect you with any of the aforementioned service providers. Don’t let winter ice-olate you. You’ll be healthier and happier when spring arrives if you are creative in being social over the winter.
Founder of Proactive Seniors