Isolation can happen faster than you think, and the risk factors involved can impact one’s goal to age in place. Fortunately, isolation is also avoidable and reversible, and the activities involved can be tailored to any lifestyle or interest. Taking short walks, volunteering at a school or animal shelter, or learning something new can improve an individual’s well-being. People who engage in active lifestyles:
- Are less likely to develop dementia. Because we are social beings, we need human interactions. If we do not meet this need for long
periods of time, it can begin to affect us physically and neurologically. You don’t have to sit in the company of others for hours; you can simply
enjoy a coffee in a public area like a park, shopping center, or pedestrian mall.
- Have longer lifespans. Those with active lifestyles tend to have larger social groups whom they can call on for help. Activities such as taking a class, joining a club, or working part-time can ensure that people will notice your absence and want to inquire about your health.
- Are happier and less depressed. Happiness and exercise boost your immune system and release the feel-good chemicals known as endorphins.
If you don’t feel up for a long jog in the park, many community centers have low-impact classes like yoga or chair exercises. Or you can often
find low-impact exercise or yoga DVDs at shopping centers, thrift stores, or libraries. You can even dance to your favorite music at home.
- Are better prepared to cope with loss. Having support during times of loss is important at any age. Having access to emotional support can encourage a person not to feel alone during the grieving process. Also, being a part of something outside the home can be an outlet to staying positive about the capabilities they possess.
Because we are unique individuals, isolation does not look the same for everyone. Some people enjoy extended periods of time to themselves and would rather be alone. For these individuals, there are still safety nets that can be put in place. One may want to recruit a family member or friend to call regularly to see how things are going, or sign up for a JFS Friendly Visitor volunteer.
Even integrating services like Meals on Wheels (if eligible) can provide a person with a friendly interaction and protect a more private lifestyle. The most important question to ask yourself is, “Do I feel lonely?” If the answer is yes, you may want to make a list of activities you enjoy and research what is available in your community. For help connecting with the resources mentioned in this article, please contact the JFS Senior Solutions department at 303.597.5000.
-By Christina Kellerman, Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center Intern
Christina Kellerman is in her last semester of the Master of Social Work (MSW) graduate program at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Working as a caregiver in long-term care for several years motivated her to pursue a career in social work with a focus on aging. She graduated from Metropolitan State University in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and continued in the graduate program.