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Sunset’s timely tips for keeping seniors active and engaged in wintertime

Written by Healthy Living News. Posted in January

Winter in Northwest Ohio can be tough on area residents of all ages. With snowy and icy conditions compromising roadways, rendering sidewalks treacherous or impassable, and forcing us to spend most of our time cooped up indoors, it’s all too common for “cabin fever” to set in as we clench our teeth and await spring’s return. However, wintertime isolation can be much more problematic for seniors than it is for people in other age groups.

 

According to Gayle Young, Director of Marketing, Communication, and Public Relations for Sunset Retirement Communities, “Social isolation, which tends to get worse in winter due to the often inclement weather, puts seniors at increased risk for a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental health issues, such as debilitating falls, malnutrition, anxiety and depression, cognitive decline, dementia, and even mortality.”

To ensure the senior loved ones in our lives stay active and socially engaged throughout the long winter months, Young offers the following suggestions:

Make time for meaningful visits

Time spent with senior loved ones is all too often limited to quick in-and-out visits to ensure their basic medical and housekeeping needs are met—stopping by to set up their medications for the week, making sure the garbage cans get to the street on time, scooping the kitty litter, etc. In addition to assisting in this fashion, it’s important to make time on a regular basis to sit down with your senior loved one for meaningful conversation and interaction. “It can be a tremendous comfort and benefit to seniors knowing they have someone with whom they can spend quality time and share thoughts, hopes, and concerns, rather than someone who just dashes in to attend to chores,” says Young.

Promote peer connections

Just as important for seniors is interacting with their age-group peers who likely share similar interests and cultural/historical reference points. Area senior centers, senior communities, and church groups offer ample opportunities for seniors to connect with their peers while participating in a wide range of social activities. Take advantage of them!

Facilitate transportation

Many seniors either have functional limitations that prevent them from driving or are simply uncomfortable with the idea of driving in wintry conditions. As a result, their freedom to leave home and socialize or join in activities is significantly limited. Keeping seniors connected can be a simple matter of offering the occasional ride in your vehicle or, if you can’t be there, helping them arrange public transportation or shuttle services to social activities.

Address health barriers to socialization

Among the biggest obstacles to socialization for seniors are health issues that either limit their enjoyment of social activities, such as hearing or vision impairment, or cause them to feel anxious or embarrassed about leaving home and spending time in the company of others, such as incontinence issues. “Ensuring seniors get the proper health care and support they need to address these issues can go a long way toward keeping them engaged and preventing isolation,” Young states.

Encourage hobbies and pastimes

Arts and crafts, jigsaw or crossword puzzles, board games, book reading, cooking, learning to play a musical instrument, and knitting or sewing are just a sampling of healthy hobbies and pastimes that can help keep seniors engaged all winter long. “To make these activities even more meaningful for your senior loved one, why not join in and share the experience? For example, you could read and discuss the same book, get together for a regular card game or chess match, or team up to take on a different cooking challenge each week,” Young recommends.

Consider a senior community

Young further notes that one of the best ways for seniors to stay engaged and active—not just in winter but all year round—is to move into a community that’s dedicated to their needs and interests. “Here at Sunset, our residents never have to experience isolation because we have a built-in community and offer a wide variety of activities and amenities that nourish them in body, mind, and spirit,” she says. “In addition, our expansive care continuum includes independent living, assisted living, memory care, health care, and hospice and palliative care, so residents are never put in the position of having to leave behind their home and supportive community just because their care needs have changed.” ❦

Winter in Northwest Ohio can be tough on area residents of all ages. With snowy and icy conditions compromising roadways, rendering sidewalks treacherous or impassable, and forcing us to spend most of our time cooped up indoors, it’s all too common for “cabin fever” to set in as we clench our teeth and await spring’s return. However, wintertime isolation can be much more problematic for seniors than it is for people in other age groups.

According to Gayle Young, Director of Marketing, Communication, and Public Relations for Sunset Retirement Communities, “Social isolation, which tends to get worse in winter due to the often inclement weather, puts seniors at increased risk for a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental health issues, such as debilitating falls, malnutrition, anxiety and depression, cognitive decline, dementia, and even mortality.”

To ensure the senior loved ones in our lives stay active and socially engaged throughout the long winter months, Young offers the following suggestions:

Make time for meaningful visits

Time spent with senior loved ones is all too often limited to quick in-and-out visits to ensure their basic medical and housekeeping needs are met—stopping by to set up their medications for the week, making sure the garbage cans get to the street on time, scooping the kitty litter, etc. In addition to assisting in this fashion, it’s important to make time on a regular basis to sit down with your senior loved one for meaningful conversation and interaction. “It can be a tremendous comfort and benefit to seniors knowing they have someone with whom they can spend quality time and share thoughts, hopes, and concerns, rather than someone who just dashes in to attend to chores,” says Young.

Promote peer connections

Just as important for seniors is interacting with their age-group peers who likely share similar interests and cultural/historical reference points. Area senior centers, senior communities, and church groups offer ample opportunities for seniors to connect with their peers while participating in a wide range of social activities. Take advantage of them!

Facilitate transportation

Many seniors either have functional limitations that prevent them from driving or are simply uncomfortable with the idea of driving in wintry conditions. As a result, their freedom to leave home and socialize or join in activities is significantly limited. Keeping seniors connected can be a simple matter of offering the occasional ride in your vehicle or, if you can’t be there, helping them arrange public transportation or shuttle services to social activities.

Address health barriers 
to socialization

Among the biggest obstacles to socialization for seniors are health issues that either limit their enjoyment of social activities, such as hearing or vision impairment, or cause them to feel anxious or embarrassed about leaving home and spending time in the company of others, such as incontinence issues. “Ensuring seniors get the proper health care and support they need to address these issues can go a long way toward keeping them engaged and preventing isolation,” Young states.

Encourage hobbies 
and pastimes

Arts and crafts, jigsaw or crossword puzzles, board games, book reading, cooking, learning to play a musical instrument, and knitting or sewing are just a sampling of healthy hobbies and pastimes that can help keep seniors engaged all winter long. “To make these activities even more meaningful for your senior loved one, why not join in and share the experience? For example, you could read and discuss the same book, get together for a regular card game or chess match, or team up to take on a different cooking challenge each week,” Young recommends.

Consider a senior 
community

Young further notes that one of the best ways for seniors to stay engaged and active—not just in winter but all year round—is to move into a community that’s dedicated to their needs and interests. “Here at Sunset, our residents never have to experience isolation because we have a built-in community and offer a wide variety of activities and amenities that nourish them in body, mind, and spirit,” she says. “In addition, our expansive care continuum includes independent living, assisted living, memory care, health care, and hospice and palliative care, so residents are never put in the position of having to leave behind their home and supportive community just because their care needs have changed.” ❦

Elizabeth Scott