As social distancing requirements are slowly relaxed, we are seeing the health benefits of social interaction after a year so heavily characterized by isolation. Senior living communities offer the opportunity for seniors to socialize in several ways, while remaining conscious of their safety.
Health Benefits of Social Interaction
With the greater part of 2020 defined by isolation, the “loneliness pandemic” quickly became a major public health crisis. According to the Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom, longstanding loneliness can provoke the development of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
Luckily, social interaction is the perfect way to combat strong feelings of loneliness. Interacting with others allows individuals to spark connection in their lives and form strong, meaningful relationships. Social interaction has health benefits for people of all ages; however, these benefits are especially important for seniors. These benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. Mental illnesses, while chemical in nature, are often provoked or amplified by one’s surroundings. Seniors are less likely to develop these ailments in their golden years when they have positive social interactions.
- Improved physical health. The International Journal of Sports and Exercise Psychology shows that individuals who have a close social circle are more likely to exercise regularly. Not only does this promote physical health, but it also improves self-esteem.
- Longer lifespan. Socially engaged seniors are more likely to treat their bodies and minds with care, promoting a slower decline in health. On the other hand, isolation tends to make individuals do the opposite.
In addition, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that socialization assists in preventing general cognitive decline by improving mental engagement and acuteness. This includes slowing the progression of memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia.
How to Socialize in a Pandemic
Many may be out-of-practice when it comes to social interaction in 2021. This is especially true for the elderly, who are just now able to socialize again in public. Thankfully, the world is moving towards a more socialization-centric time, filled with safer social interaction and more meaningful relationships.
It is understandably daunting to try and socialize with lower risk in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have a few ideas to help. With spring well underway, now is the perfect time to engage in social outdoor activities. This includes walks with your pet, outdoor meals with friends, and gardening. The Branchlands senior living community offers these opportunities through an inclusive pet policy, access to outdoor patios, and gardening events for green-thumbed residents.
The arts also emerged as a powerful tool for connection in the early stages of the pandemic. We asked residents to describe their pandemic experience in any way that they pleased. The result? Many wrote poems and stories that were then copied and sent to other residents. The impactful words from our residents allowed them to connect with one another in a time where it was not comfortable safe to do so in person.
Get Tech Savvy
Technology is another socialization method that greatly helps seniors. Branchlands staff assists residents with FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom video calls at family members’ or residents’ request. We also offer hearing impaired phones and viewclix technology to increase access to laptops and computers. Some memory care residents have regularly scheduled calls with their loved ones to stay connected while the pandemic continues.
The benefits of technological socialization span beyond virtual calls. Many exercise vendors offer classes via Zoom, enabling residents to partake in virtual exercise classes with one another. These classes initially began with smaller groups but are now increasing in popularity due to loosened social distancing requirements.
Looking Forward into 2021
In the early months of the pandemic, when indoor visitation was not allowed, we asked family members to bring in cake and party supplies to help residents celebrate their special day. Many residents hung signs in their windows, or welcomed window visits from family and friends. These practices made milestones, such as birthdays, memorable in a time when they couldn’t celebrate in typical fashion.
Now, Linden House Assisted Living residents can have two visitors per day for any length of time between 8 AM and 8 PM. For outdoor visits, residents can have up to four daily visitors. Manor House Independent Living residents don’t have visitor restrictions, aside from the practice of proper social distancing guidelines per the CDC. All vendors and volunteers are welcome back into the Branchlands community when fully vaccinated, or with weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
One Step at a Time
When it comes to socialization, it is important that seniors can interact with others on their own schedule. With several community spaces available throughout the Branchlands campus—including sitting rooms, a private movie theater, and exercise spaces—individuals can socialize at any point in their day. We also provides a hydration and snack cart that makes daily visits to resident apartments to provide in-apartment activities.
In addition, the Branchlands concierge shuttles allow groups of friends to visit Stonefield Commons, as well as any other desired destinations in Charlottesville.
Receive Support from Senior Living Communities
During a global pandemic, it may be stressful and worrisome to maintain a healthy social life. However, moving to a senior living community increases opportunities for lower-risk social interaction. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to vaccinate all willing Branchlands residents to improve the safety of our senior living community.
Retirement communities offer many opportunities to connect with others. For more information on the socialization opportunities and events at Branchlands—including games, crafts, storytelling, and tea time—view our Manor House Independent Living and Linden House Assisted Living and Memory Care events calendars. Specific activities vary between our independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities based on guidelines in place.
With personalized care, Branchlands helps seniors live life to the fullest. To schedule a private, guided tour, call 434-973-0311 or click the green “Request a Tour” button at the top of this page.