Over the past three years, I've spoken with hundreds of family caregivers who are concerned about a parent's loneliness and isolation. A recent study, described in this USA Today article, confirmed that these feelings, so common among seniors, can raise the risk of premature death by as much as 14 percent.
What can we do to help our parents be as active and engaged as they're able? I'm posting some suggestions below in hopes that some - at least one or two - will appeal to your parent enough to want to give it a try. If he or she likes the idea, but it's not geographically convenient, perhaps you can find something similar where your parent lives.
- If your parent is mobile, a volunteer position may be the answer. There have many volunteer opportunities listed in the program section of our website, including those at the Aventura Hospital, BRAVO (volunteer opportunities in the arts for boomers and retired people), Fairchild Tropical Gardens, and RSVP, a service that connects those ages 55+ to volunteer opportunities of their interest in Broward County. We've also told you about ReServe Miami, an organization that places retired persons in paid positions in non-profit companies.
- Check out your local community center. You can find many throughout south Florida and you just may be surprised to see how much is going on for your parents. Check out the Senior Lift Center or the Pinecrest Community Center in South Dade, or the Herb Skolnick Community Center in Pompano Beach, or the Senior Centers in Boynton and Delray Beaches, just to name a few.
- Meal time is often the most lonely hour of the day. If you live near your parent, try to have them over at dinnertime or bring them a meal when you can. Another solution to the meal-time loneliness is to engage companion care for a few hours each week. A companion from a licensed company can take your parent grocery shopping and/or prepare a meal and eat with them, and can provide just the right amount of company needed.
- Help your parent enroll in a class. Most Universities (and even the Delray Beach Public Library) offer wonderful classes on a wide variety of subjects. Please check out an older post on Going Back to School. You'll find all the contact information you need to learn more.
- If your parent is able and willing, try to work with them to learn how to use some of the most simple technologies available. Maybe an iPad could provide them with the opportunity to communicate online with children and grandchildren using Skype or learning how to play brain games online, or perhaps you can help them to download books with large print or movies.
- Adopt a pet. It's true that pets love unconditionally and most people don't feel alone if they have a pet. If your parent is mobile, this may be a good solution.
Do you have any suggestions for tackling the loneliness issue? If so, please email them to me. I'm happy to post your suggestions.
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