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Human beings are social by nature.  We rely on parents as infants and children to provide love, support and even human touch.  As adults we need a shoulder to lean on – someone to laugh with and talk to. Even a pat on the back, hug or touch of the hand can make all the difference.  We don’t realize how important this is, but as we age and become more homebound, these important needs often go unmet.  We often hear seniors say they want to remain in their home as long as possible. This is wonderful if they can, but we can’t forget about the need for socialization and meaningful activities.   


There is a physical advantage to socialization.  According to a study conducted by Rush University Medical Center, an older person with a higher level of social activity is about twice as likely to remain free of a disability involving activities of daily living.  The possible reason behind this is that people who are active socially tend to have more energy and endurance and, in turn, get more physical exercise.


There is a mental benefit to socialization and activities.  Studies show that seniors with a lot of social interaction are happier.  If a person cannot actually participate in activities such as card games, book clubs, cooking classes or chess, they can still benefit from observing them because being in the presence of others can be uplifting.  With this in mind, think about if your loved one is homebound and the last time someone visited them or brought over an activity to do with them.


Opportunities for meaningful activities and socialization are everywhere. You really don’t have to put much thought into them.  We work with a lot of patients who have dementia and I sometimes think people over think activities.  This is especially true for caregivers who are providing care on a daily basis.  Activities can be as simple as raking the leaves together, clipping coupons, folding clothes, sitting on the front porch and holding that person’s hand, setting the table or looking through photo albums. Intergenerational activities are especially beneficial for seniors so consider having a children present for a visit.


If you are a senior or a family member of a senior, take this time to think about the activities and socialization that are in your life or your loved one’s life.  Sometimes living at home alone is a very lonely place.  I have seen seniors who wanted to live at home alone without assistance but were forced—due to medical or physical issues—to make these drastic life changes.  These changes include adding in-home care, attending adult day care, going to the local senior center, moving to an assisted living facility or moving into a nursing facility, and these seniors have really thrived due to the need to be around people and socialize.   


At Western Illinois Home Health Care, we offer comprehensive companionship care plans.  Our staff is trained to provide meaningful activities and help seniors get out of their home and interact in their community.  Our Senior Care Management Team can assess your needs, tailor a care plan to meet those needs and educate you on the additional resources in your community that may be available to meet your socialization needs.  


Amanda Powell, BSW is the Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care.  


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The Importance of Socialization for Seniors

December 2013

by Amanda Powell