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A Path to Wellness – Defeating Seniors Social Isolation  
By Chris Treftlin

In my work I see it almost daily.  The phone rings and a family member asks how we can help Mom or Dad.  “They are not themselves.  Mom used to be into everything…”.  The pandemic has made this issue much worse. The adult child is calling from a distance.  From across the province, across the country, continent, we get the pitcher.  Let’s be direct.  Our seniors are lonely, and they are lonely because they are isolated. 

This isolation happened over time.  It was gradual.  Perhaps physical limitations stopped them from attending groups, clubs, getting together with friends.  Losing driving privileges is another big reason seniors get isolated.  A more poignant reality for this group is the fact many of Mom and Dad’s friends and family of the same age are going into long term care, moving away to be closer to family, and indeed – passing away.   

Loneliness is the problem; social isolation is the cause. Here is why we need to defeat it.   The Centre for Decease Control (CDC) in the U.S. put out a report the states Isolated and lonely Senior’s: 

  • Have a 50% increased risk of developing dementia 
  • Have a 29% increased risk of developing cardiac health issues 
  • Are 32% more likely to have a stroke 
  • Are at risk for premature death 

 Look, there is another reason why we need to help our seniors with this, and I have written about this in the past.  An isolated senior is at a much, much higher risk of suffering abuse in all of its forms: emotional, physical, and through fraud and scams. 

 There is more, but I will stop there.  Here is the link to the report.  Read it to get a deeper understanding of this serious issue afflicting our seniors.

 Sobering for sure, while sobering you should look at it as a call to action. 

 Reconnect and Overcome 

 Mom and Dad can be engaged.  You just have to help them.  Here is a plan to help you get your loved one back to life.  Do a mental review of what they were into.  Was it golf, cards, quilting?  Was it volunteering, travel, faith based?  Was it gardening, pets, boating?  Whatever the interest, reengage.  Ask them for ideas and move forward, but only move forward if it involves people. 

Some resources exist locally to help get there.  Most established churches have a senior’s ministry.  Here in Sarnia, we have a great YMCA – recently rebranded “The Y”.  Check out their website.  Another really wonderful organization in Sarnia is the Strangway Centre on East Street, beside Germain Park.  There are far too many programs to list.  Cards, music, hobby room, Lunch groups all set up to respond to an individual senior’s social health.  One program that was very well received was a speaking series.  The Centre organized a weekly speaker on various topics from current events, travel logs, and other topics that the members could attend.  

You may hit some head winds.  That is your loved one could be, and when I say could be I mean probably will, resist your efforts.  Something out of their comfort zone is happening.  The only advice I can give you is, don’t give up!  Have a few options open to you and persist.  After all they are worth it.