5 Ways to Reconnect with Elders in your Life This Year
Written by Cooper & Friedman PLLC on January 26, 2023
Seniors play a very important role in society by providing a piece of history in their knowledge and experiences. But too often, they’re left to their own devices by their loved ones, who get busy and forget to connect with the elders in their life. Growing old is difficult to adapt to; aging bodies and brains make activities once enjoyed difficult to do, and sometimes autonomy is compromised by this, and they must rely on someone else to complete daily tasks. Friends, pets, and partners pass away, and isolation can quickly become a big problem.
The National Council on Aging states that, “while older adults comprise just 12% of the population, they make up approximately 18% of suicides.” Along with that statement, statistics from the CDC about other health risks and concerns that stem from loneliness and isolation in the elderly population include:
- Social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, which rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- Social isolation is associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships, which result in social isolation or loneliness is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients is associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
This doesn’t have to happen, though! Through caring actions and a conscious attempt at change and connection, you can keep the seniors in your life from falling to loneliness and isolation. The new year is a great time to start new traditions, and connecting more or reconnecting entirely with elders is a very attainable and beneficial New Year’s Resolution for both you and them.
Here are some easy ways to reintegrate connection with elders into your schedule!
1. Become Pen Pals
Sometimes, regular physical contact isn’t possible because of distance, health, financial situations, or life events, and that’s understandable! It’s still important to make sure the senior knows that they are a priority to you, though, and a good way to do this is to become pen pals with them. It’s not common to receive paper letters anymore, but growing up, it might have been the primary mode of communication for your parents or grandparents. Sending letters and printed-out or polaroid pictures to give the elder updates on your life and activities simultaneously helps them feel included in your life and brings back a practice they might miss.
2. Help Them Sort Through and Organize Their Home
Especially if you know that a senior has experienced depression or doesn’t have the physical ability to organize their space or clean out items they might not want or need, spending time helping them through their house, even if it’s only a closet, one room, or a few boxes, can be very beneficial to their mental health and to your relationship. This creates a space that encourages story-telling and recollection, which can benefit a senior’s memory and draw on positive past experiences that make them feel seen. You might even stumble upon something that becomes an heirloom or that the senior forgot about that brings them joy. This could also potentially benefit you in the future, since you are getting to spend time with the elder while assisting in what is morbidly known as “death cleaning,” which isn’t really as morbid as it sounds.
Death cleaning is a process that middle-aged and elderly people go through where the stuff they’ve accumulated over the course of their lives is reevaluated and assigned new worth. Getting rid of anything that stops you from living the best life you can as you enter into a new phase of life is a form of relief and therapy for some, since the things they do keep take on new meaning, and the person doing the cleaning can view their life and their stuff in a different light.
3. Learn Something New
Knowledge and the ability to take part in a hobby is an important aspect to keeping our brains engaged and stimulated. If the senior in your life no longer feels as if they can do anything, or if the things they want to do require other people, it might be easy to fall into a routine that contains nothing challenging or fun. Learning something new can include learning together, even if it’s as simple as a card game, board game, or recipe, to asking the elder to teach you something that they already know. Sharing skills and experiences is a great way to connect to who they are and what they’re good at! It’s also an opportunity to learn more about your heritage and culture, since certain crafts and dishes can be traced down your family history.
4. Go Through Mementos
In much the same way, engaging a senior in their past is a great way to get a glimpse into their perspective and bring up happy memories. Mementos have stories attached to them, and you might be surprised to hear about the adventures and life of an elder! Especially if it’s a parent or grandparent, sometimes we go our entire lives only knowing them as such and forgetting that they grew up having dreams, desires, trips, and aspirations. It can almost be like meeting a new person, and finding common ground can make conversation flow easier in the future, as well!
5. Set Up a Regular Visiting Schedule
If you do have the capacity to physically visit seniors, remember that visits don’t have to be seen as super-special, once-in-a-blue-moon events! They don’t have to be all-day or include expensive outings, and you don’t even have to bring the entire family, if that’s a struggle point for you. By choosing a day and setting it aside for visits, it’s a lot easier to plan for and around creating and maintaining connection with elders. Even if it’s a twice monthly dinner, an un-rushed Facetime call every other Saturday, Bingo nights at the community center, or a cup of tea after work every Wednesday, reconnecting with the elders in your life goes past establishing the initial connection – it requires cultivation as well, and creating a schedule is a great way to maintain it!
If you or someone you love has been a victim of elder abuse or nursing home neglect in the State of Kentucky and are in need of an experienced elder law attorney, give the lawyers at the Cooper & Friedman law firm a call. The attorneys at Cooper and Friedman PLLC have over 50 years of combined experience defending the rights of elder abuse and nursing home neglect victims. Contact us with questions you might have or schedule a free case consultation with an attorney by calling 502-459-7555 today.