Shared from the 2/13/2019 Pikes Peak Courier eEdition

THE GOLDEN BRIDGE NETWORK

Seniors’ social, emotional well-being just as crucial as physical health

Picture

Accumulating evidence suggests better health and community engagement lead to greater well-being as we grow older. That’s not surprising.

But for many, the absence of disease and disability is still perceived as healthy aging, failing to recognize the importance social interaction plays in living a fulfilling life for our seniors. Research on successful aging suggests being well and living well requires focusing on factors beyond caring for the aging body. The movement towards helping seniors live at home (known as “aging in place”) can be creating unintended health and quality of life issues. Helping seniors remain in familiar surroundings for as long as possible seems a worthy goal and is generally made with the best intentions, but this focus can exacerbate social isolation, the root cause of many senior health concerns. Social isolation is linked to suicide, depression, emotional distress, increased injury and accidents, high blood pressure, and an increase in disease and disability. Feelings of loneliness are linked to overall cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia.

Factors leading to social isolation include living alone, loss of independence, cognitive decline, health problems, and sensory impairment, such as hearing loss. Losing a spouse has been shown by numerous studies to dramatically increase seniors’ vulnerability to social isolation. Winter weather and isolated geography are factors for Teller County seniors.

Loved ones and friends are often the people who notice the effects social isolation is having on their loved one.

Answering yes to two or three of these questions should prompt an investigation into how to improve social interaction:

• Has there been the loss of a spouse or significant other?

• Has there been a significant loss of independence, especially the ability to drive?

• Are regular, active social interactions missing? Have old friends moved or passed away?

• Have regularly scheduled events, activities, or hobbies fallen by the wayside because participation has become difficult or impossible?

• Is watching TV the major activity of each day?

• Are there reports of boredom, loneliness or sadness?

• Is the senior increasingly housebound?

• Has there been a change in personality?

• Has there been a change in their physical appearance? Weight loss or weight gain? Is someone who was once fastidious about personal hygiene suddenly slovenly or disheveled? All these may be signs a loved one is suffering the effects of social isolation.

Carole Weitner most often finds herself cooking away in The Aspen Kitchen. The Aspen Assisted Living Residence provides a beautiful and safe environment and promotes community within the residence and Woodland Park. For more information, visit theaspen.life or contact Vice President of Resident Experience Angela Waterbury at angela@theaspen.life.

The Golden Bridge Network bridges seniors and services through enhanced communication and process improvement in Teller County and the neighboring communities. To learn more, visit the Golden Bridge Network Facebook page.

See this article in the e-Edition Here