If you’ve been a parent, you’ve surely heard “I’m bored!” countless times. Children often have difficulty thinking of something to do or initiating an activity or a get-together with a friend. The responsibility often falls to parents to suggest the obvious activity or call another parent to arrange a “play date.” If you are the caregiver of an elderly parent or spouse, you may have experienced the same thing. Boredom that leads to depression is a major factor in many homes, senior health care facilities and assisted living homes. The responsibility now may fall on you to keep your loved one busy and involved with other people. Aging is a process, but boredom can be a danger to seniors.
When my husband was first diagnosed as being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, I was told to expect that something with which he would gradually have more difficulty was planning and initiating a healthy variety of activities. I was also told that it would help his emotional health and mental abilities to interact with other people. Knowing this has helped me to take the initiative when it comes to suggesting and planning things we can do together, and also to suggest opportunities for him to call or do things with friends and acquaintances.
Why does keeping seniors busy and social matter?
No one likes to be bored, at any age. Senior citizens are no different, but when they reach their later years, they begin to experience some significant changes in their physical and mental health that tend to limit their activity. We may think of difficulty with memory as the first mental symptom to appear, but often the first noticeable changes are more related to cognitive abilities—the ability to make plans and carry them out, the ability to follow directions, the ability to use language as effectively—all changes that affect a person’s ability to participate in stimulating activities. This means that they need support in more ways than just help with remembering words and upcoming events. Meaningful activities and opportunities to socialize are vital in helping seniors maintain their ability to live independently and even live longer, happier lives, no matter what their physical problems may be.
Community help for seniors and caregivers
As long as a senior’s physical health doesn’t limit their mobility to the point of keeping them homebound, helping them to get involved in community-based programs that promote social interaction and physical activities can be a win/win for both senior and caregiver. Your community may have a Senior Center that offers free exercise programs, various classes geared to older learners, or other skill-building activities like art and music that allow seniors to interact with others, at the same time as filling their days with something other than boredom. Activities and interactions like these can lead to better cognitive, mental and physical health, as well as less anxiety and depression and an increase in happiness and sense of self-worth. A social network and a sense of community with other seniors helps to prevent a feeling of isolation and not fitting in.
In July of 2016, DTN Home Care began a unique collaboration with Proximal 50, a comprehensive wellness center committed to making positive changes in health and quality of life for clients. They provide customizable health and wellness services, including physical therapy in the home for DTN Home Care clients who are homebound. They are our exclusive, recommended provider of in-home physical therapy. You can find more information about our partnership in our blog here.
Alleviating feelings of isolation
My 97-year-old father lives in a very nice assisted living center that plans many activities for its residents, and yet he often reports feeling lonely. Research reveals that nearly 20 percent of seniors feel isolated. The causes for feelings of loneliness and isolation can vary widely, but there are some we can be aware of and help to alleviate. Not having access to transportation may prevent traveling to activities outside the home. For as long as your loved one is able to move about, arranging for or providing transportation to activities in the community or church may be all he or she needs to become involved. Even a short scenic drive can be a big boost to morale. Many organizations can use senior volunteers to perform tasks that are neither too mentally nor physically taxing.
When a person’s physical health limits their mobility and makes it difficult to leave their home, arranging regular visits from family, friends or even professional in-home aides who will read, play games, do puzzles or simply visit and reminisce can be a big boost to mental health. Reminding a senior resident of in-facility activities may be all it takes for them to get involved. Research has also discovered that men tend to have fewer social networks than women and are more likely to experience isolation. Men might need more encouragement and ideas of how to keep busy and be social than women do.
Senior isolation is a social and health issue that affects everyone
Healthy seniors can contribute to communities by bringing a sense of energy, wisdom and experience, and by lending a hand in a variety of meaningful ways. Preventing feelings of boredom and isolation should be a major concern of health care providers and caregivers to the elderly – as high on the list of importance as adequate medical care and supervision. Boredom leads to multiple physical and emotional issues, including:
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling that life is no longer worth living
- Feeling intense restlessness
- Feeling unloved or uncared about
- Feeling suicidal
The National Institute of Aging has identified regular stimulation as a major factor in quality of life between groups of seniors. Those who are mentally stimulated and enjoy social interaction are less likely to suffer from chronic illness and physical limitations. The fight against boredom and depression should be at the top of your senior’s treatment plan.
- Posted in: agitation ♦ Caregivers ♦ Community Resources ♦ Dementia ♦ Elderly care ♦ Loneliness ♦ PT ♦ Tips for caregivers
- Tagged: depression and boredom in Elderly, Elderly and isolation, Elderly and loneliness, Elderly initiating activities, Keeping seniors busy, mentally stimulating seniors, senior isolation