Whether it's walking in the park, enjoying outdoor picnics, attending baseball games, or going swimming, summer includes countless fun pursuits. What's more, summertime involves various traditions, such as traveling to favorite vacation destinations, watching Fourth of July fireworks, and attending family reunions. For older adults, missing out on summer’s fun can create feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Ask a clergy member who comes to mind when he or she hears the abbreviation, "CEO," and the answer might surprise you. It's likely not a business leader that the pastor thinks of, but an infrequent churchgoer: the so-called Christmas and Easter Only service attendees. Whether it's the holiday spirit or a bit of guilt, Christmas and Easter fill the pews with numerous members who rarely visit their church the remainder of the year.
A similar phenomenon happens in visiting older adults. Many friends and family members make a point to visit their loved ones during holidays and birthdays while infrequently visiting at other times.
We often correlate loneliness with holiday seasons and fail to see it as a year-round problem. As a result, older adults can feel especially isolated during the summertime when loved ones are often too busy having fun to visit.
Isolation and Loneliness
According to Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago Medical Center, one in three older adults is lonely—a state of mind associated with depression, irritability, and self-centeredness.
Loneliness can result from many factors, including life-changing events such as retirement, a loved one's death, an illness, or loss of mobility.
Even those residing in senior living communities—surrounded by people their ages who share similar interests—can experience loneliness. That's because loneliness is more than being physically alone. It also involves feeling isolated from loved ones and cut off from favorite activities.
Making Visits Count
While enjoying summer's many pastimes, remember to make time for those loved ones who would relish your visit. Like everyone else, older adults enjoy socializing, being outdoors, and staying active. Try including your loved one in a day of fun pursuits, sharing a long conversation at home, or grabbing a bite to eat. What matters most is providing a break from routine and spending quality time together.
If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility, you can create summer fun without leaving the campus. Many communities offer a variety of onsite family events, as well as gathering areas for residents and friends to socialize. Take a stroll and explore the grounds together, play cards on the patio, or catch up over a meal in the dining room.
Even with all the amenities that communities offer, residents enjoy leaving the campus occasionally. Simple activities such as lunch dates, shopping, or taking grandchildren to the zoo can have a significant impact on overcoming feelings of isolation.
If you're uncertain how to make the most from visiting someone in a senior living facility, ask a staff member. Caregivers should be able to tell you what time of day is best for visiting your loved one, along with what type of activities he or she would enjoy.
Visiting older loved ones helps elevate their spirits—as well as your own. Don't let the summer go by without a visit.