& Staying Social
How to Stay Social & Make Friends in a Senior Living Community
Neighbors warmly greet each other in the dining room for breakfast and linger over a cup of coffee and a scone. Chatter and laughter fill the hallways of Aegis Living, as residents begin their mornings. Over a second cup of coffee in the bistro, residents gather to discuss the daily news and plan their activities for the day. This describes a typical busy morning in our community.
This scene is in stark contrast to an elderly loved one who is living alone. No one to greet them in the morning or to help them get dressed. No one to share breakfast with or plans for the day. A study published in The Journals of Gerontology found that the social support of living in an assisted living community has a positive effect on an individual’s quality of life and happiness. The comradery and socialization of an assisted living community cannot be compared with living alone. And socialization is one of the many health benefits of living with others and sharing new experiences together.
5 Ways that Staying Social Keeps Seniors Healthy
Assisted living communities are built on a social model. At Aegis Living, our communities are purpose-built to support our residents’ passions, interests, and hobbies. Whether they are engaging their artistic side in our art rooms, participating in our music therapy programs, working with a fitness instructor, or learning a new recipe in our demonstration kitchen, every community offers designed activities, amenities, and programs to meet our residents’ interests. And through these daily activities, our residents can meet their new neighbors and become good friends.
We know that socializing is beneficial to both the health and wellbeing of our residents. But why is that?
- Creates a Sense of Belonging. No matter your age, everyone wants to feel like they belong or are part of something bigger than themselves. Shared experiences and activities create meaningful bonds with neighbors and build friendships. At Aegis Living, we encourage our residents from the minute they move in to meet their neighbors and join activities to get to know the other residents better. We make a point to introduce new residents to others whom we feel might strike up a friendship. Moving into an assisted living community can be daunting, so making a new friend can positively change their attitude toward the move. Our staff tries to nurture these new friendships for a smooth transition.
- Improves Self Esteem. Your senior loved one or parent might not be able to do as much as they used to. Their frailty, immobility, or slipping memory may be a source of embarrassment or frustration. This can negatively affect their self-esteem. Feeling that you are accountable to others and contributing to the community can be a big boost to one’s sense of worth. The higher one’s self-esteem, the better their mental outlook will be.
- Enhances Mental Health. Isolation can lead to feelings of despair and, in some cases, depression. As humans, we crave interaction and connection. Friends and relationships add to our quality of life at any age. Being around others, taking part in activities, laughter, and conversation with neighbors and caregivers is good for one’s mental health. Our residents engage in activities together that keep them aware of current news, stimulates their brain through interactive games, and encourages sharing memories.
- Improves Physical Health. Our residents enjoy participating in the activities and exercise programs that get them up and moving or an excursion out into the neighborhood for some fresh air. Social interactions, especially in older adults, is associated with a stronger immune system, helping them fight off colds, the flu, and other illnesses. Social engagement boosts our residents’ overall sense of wellbeing. At Aegis Living, we also provide transportation to our residents, including to doctor’s appointments. Many seniors who no longer drive may not regularly see their physician.
- Creates a Sense of Purpose. At Aegis Living, we believe that giving back to our local charities and within our communities is vital to our residents’ sense of purpose. We have residents who bake dog treats for local shelters, make blankets for young children needing assistance, and knitting circles who knit hats for newborns at the local hospital.
Types of Activities Offered at Aegis Living
At Aegis Living, we offer a wide variety of scheduled daily activities, events, and outings to keep residents actively engaged and encourage comradery. Some of our activities are unconventional, such as beer making from growing the hops to bottling the brew. Every Life Enrichment program is different in each community, and calendars are customized for the interests of those who live in that community. Some examples of our engaging activities include:
- Local sightseeing excursions and visits to local attractions
- Live entertainment at happy hour
- Intergenerational programs with local schools
- Interactive music programs
- TED talks and group discussions on current events
- Arts and crafts programs to create, paint, and build
- Exercise programs that include tai chi, yoga, stretching, and balance workouts
- Special interest clubs
- Games, cards, and brain teasers
- Cooking classes in our demonstration kitchens
How to Help Your Loved One Make Friends in their Senior Living Community
Our Life Enrichment program encourages group interaction and engagement among the residents in positive ways. At Aegis Living, your loved one will have a support system of not only caregivers to help with their personal care needs, but an entire community of peers who are going through similar challenges and changes.
“It’s never too late for dreams to come true—no matter your age,” daughter, Debbie Z., shared. Her mother, Virginia, was a resident in our memory care community in Granada Hills, where she met Patricia (Patty). Neither woman had a best friend in their adult life until they met each other and became inseparable friends. Always at each other’s side, they shared meals, activities, helped each other when one forgot, and visited each other’s room for good, old-fashioned girl-talk. And Patty had a place of honor at Virginia’s 90th birthday celebration by her side. “It’s never too late for a miracle to happen, for a dream to come true, or to have a new fulfilling experience in life. All that and more happened for Virginia and Patty.”
Encourage Your Loved One to Get Involved. From the moment that your loved one moves into an Aegis Living community, our staff begins the process of introducing them to their fellow residents. They will bring them to activities, find a seat for them with neighbors at meals, and introduce them to residents who they believe have similar personalities. We encourage families to be supportive of this effort. We suggest that you encourage them to leave their apartment and meet new residents. Ask them about their activities and encourage them to go on excursions, join an exercise class, or try something they have never done before. Learning new hobbies or activities will keep their senses sharp, while providing great social and mental benefits.
Keep Checking on Their Involvement. Your loved one’s social life is an important part of their wellbeing and happiness. If you do not feel they are meeting new people or leaving their apartment during the day, speak to your community’s General Manager and their caregivers to help them make new friendships and participate in activities. When you visit your loved one bring them into the common areas of the community and help them strike up a conversation with other residents and visiting families.
Also, if you are worried about how they are adjusting to their new home, family members can stay connected to how their loved one is doing with Aegis Living Family Link. This tool, and soon to be app, allows family members to know how their loved one fills their day. We use technology to share a window into the activities, participation levels and social time spent because we understand that staying connected is important. This tool helps us ensure that your loved one is happy, healthy, and adapting to their new home.
How Introverts Can Make Social Connections in a Senior Living Community
Peppering your Facebook feed, you may have seen some online surveys to identify if you are an introvert or extrovert. Research has found approximately 50% of our population is made up of introverts—making it possible that one of your parents or your loved one is an introvert. If your loved one tends to avoid large social situations, moving into an assisted living community might be a concern for your family. How will they fit in? Will they be happy? How can we find balance?
An introvert is someone who may tend to be quieter and is comfortable alone, but this does not necessarily mean they are shy or always want to be alone. They can be sociable but prefer smaller groups. They may need time alone to recharge.
When living in an assisted living community, it is key that your loved one has a balance of social time with plenty of downtime to refresh. At Aegis Living, we understand the different personality types of our residents and never force them to be something they are not. We accommodate them with ways to make them comfortable. Here are a few fulfilling ways that introverts enjoy our communities:
- Learning something new. Most introverts prize individual achievement, so learning a new skill can be rewarding for them. Aegis Living communities offer a wide variety of arts, crafts, and clubs from drawing and sketching to fly-fishing, beer making, or learning a new language. Our community Life Enrichment programs are set up to involve residents with a variety of interests.
- Caring for an animal. Many introverts take joy in caring for a pet and nurturing their bond with an animal. Our Aegis Living communities are pet-friendly, and most communities have a house dog.
- Watching a movie or listening to a lecture. This is a great activity for an introvert to sit with a group and meet others in their community without the pressure of social overload. Aegis Living communities have private movie theaters and offer group lectures.
- Interacting one-on-one Introverts can make new friends, but they prefer to participate in smaller groups or individual conversations. At Aegis Living, we offer an assortment of activities in different sized groups. Work with the community’s Life Enrichment director to suggest ideas on what classes or activities might work best for your loved one.
- Volunteering. Many communities offer ways to give back to the local community. Participating in something that is bigger than themselves can give seniors a sense of purpose. Your loved one may be more likely to push themselves out of their comfort zone to participate with a charity.
Making new friendships and staying social should not be underestimated. At Aegis Living, we understand how important these relationships can be to the health and happiness of our residents. Our staff is eager to meet new residents and foster friendships through introductions. We encourage residents to take part in daily activities, join friends during meals, and meet others in the common areas. Staying social also includes creating welcoming communities for family and friends to visit often. If you are interested in an Aegis Living community, schedule a tour today to meet our staff and residents.
Additional Resources: Greenwood (Seattle)
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