News Column

Supporting Healthy Aging: Finding Solutions for Social Isolation

Jul 17 2013 12:00AM



MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 07/17/13 -- After Marilyn, 83, lost her husband and companion of 63 years last spring, she dropped many of her activities and grew apart from her friends. Her daughter Mary, 61, wondered if the changes she saw in her normally active mother were due to aging or because she was depressed. Mary began helping with shopping, cleaning and coordinating doctors' appointments. She began losing sleep and worrying about her mother when she wasn't there while also juggling the responsibilities of a full-time job and a first grandchild on the way.

Much like Mary, today's adult children increasingly find themselves balancing a variety of responsibilities. Known as the "sandwich generation", many adult children are struggling to care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. Added to this delicate balancing act is the issue of social isolation among seniors, a problem that impacts both aging parents and their caregiving children.

The effects of social isolation

The social isolation and loneliness experienced by Marilyn reflect an issue of growing concern in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, about 37% of Canadians age 75 and older live alone. According to the World Health Organization, social isolation is associated with higher rates of premature death, a lower sense of wellbeing, more depression and a higher level of disability from chronic diseases.

Research also shows that social isolation increases "caregiver burden", with potentially negative effects on health and quality of life. This currently impacts approximately one-third of Canadian baby boomers who provide assistance to an aging family member, with about 70% of caregivers aged 45 to 64 actively working, according to Statistics Canada and BMO Retirement Institute.

Finding the right solution

The good news is there are solutions to reduce the risks of social isolation for seniors and their family caregivers, including maintaining or restoring an active social life. "Staying socially active, in a variety of physical, social and emotional activities, can truly enrich life for seniors and help them build new social connections," says Laura Forsyth, Director of Life Enrichment at Chartwell Retirement Residences.

In Marilyn's case, a solution arose after her sister fell, broke her hip and was hospitalized. Mary knew she needed to talk to her mother before a similar crisis occurred. They agreed to look at several retirement residences not far from where Mary lived and they soon found one her mother agreed, felt like "home".

Today, Marilyn is part of an active community at her retirement home. She has made new friends and her outlook on life is positive. She plays bridge, has taken up watercolour painting and enjoys daily therapy classes that relieve her arthritic pain. When Mary visits, they have lots to catch up on.

The right support services can often help prolong independence and help manage care needs for an aging parent while reducing the stress on adult children. If the time has come to consider your options, a retirement residence may be the solution.

Submitted by Sharon Henderson, Vice President Communication and Public Affairs, Chartwell Retirement Residences "Making People's Lives Better"


Source: Marketwire

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters