Sunday, September 21, 2008

How To Help A Lonely Elder

This info was written for people in Santa Cruz, CA but there's enough good suggestions here to help you find similar possibilities in your hometown, I'm sure:

Everyone feels lonely from time to time but the elderly are at a greater risk because most of their loneliness comes from long established habits combined with the loss of longtime friends and companions.

The key to breaking isolation is to very slowly and gently add activities that get the lonely person into the presence of others. In addition to extra contact from existing family and friends, start with activities that are easy to participate in such as church services or special interest classes. Senior centers offer a variety of activities especially geared towards seniors but Santa Cruz is also rich in adult education opportunities ranging from Parks and Recreation classes to community education courses at the University or Cabrillo College. If travel was always a source of pleasure try group tours or day trips. If the person enjoys reading try the public readings and book signings presented by local bookstores. If the person used to gain pleasure by caring for others (children or a spouse) consider volunteer opportunities with a social service agency or child care center. Even a part-time job can make a difference.

For very frail or housebound seniors, an adult day program that includes transportation and medical supervision might serve the purpose. (In Santa Cruz, try Elderday 458-3481 and Cindy's Celebrations 479-7509). If the person truly can't or won't leave the house, it is possible to arrange for a volunteer or paid companion to visit there. Try a Friendly Visitor program (427-5070) or Senior Companion (475-0816 ext. 10). Many others find that what they need most is to live with other people -- try assisted living or retirement communities or rent out a room to another senior citizen or college student (Senior Network Services Shared Housing Program 462-6788). In Santa Cruz it is even possible to try out having a housemate for a very short time by offering a room to a visiting professor or foreign exchange student for one semester or by providing space for a Shakespeare Santa Cruz performer for the summer. (458-3506)

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