As a world we’ve moved away from having global access to whatever our means could afford. Instead, we’re focused on the 2 lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy: physiological and safety needs. People are feeling frustrated because they can’t travel, shop in stores, eat at their favorite restaurants, or socialize with their friends. We all want public events back, to worship in public spaces, and to just walk down the street without being afraid of the person walking past. These necessary changes are impacting people psychologically on levels they have never experienced before.
We never knew how social we were until we weren’t allowed to socialize.
It is a known fact that persistent social isolation can decrease the quality and quantity of life for people over 65. Studies have shown that people over 65 who are socially isolated have chronic disease symptoms that mirror those disease symptoms of individuals who have never been medically treated. In addition, they disproportionately suffer from psychological effects of social isolation. This results in self-neglect, self and substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicide.
Reason for Communal Living
Assisted living, residential care facilities, and group homes were created to prevent the physical and psychological consequences of social isolation in people 65 and older. Our society actively drove the institutionalization of older adults out of “nursing homes” into community living.
Community living environments support individuals without conformity. The focus in these care environments is on quality not quantity. Community living environments work tirelessly to relieve, if not eliminate, the health consequences of social isolation through facilitating robust social interaction. Yet we find ourselves in the throes of a worldwide pandemic that demands social isolation. People are starting to suffer the effects of social isolation. People in community living are starting to experience symptoms of isolation, are we picking up on them?
The list of symptoms may seem obvious however, you may be overlooking them because of the masking effect of familiarity that develops in close relationships. Recognizing subtle symptoms as an observer are easier than when you are fully engaged. Take a few steps back and look at people outside the comfort of your relationship to ensure symptoms are not being overlooked.
Preventing Social Isolation
Seniors are extremely vulnerable to the Corona virus, but are also disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of being socially isolated. So, is there a solution to prevent social isolation?
Here are some suggestions from some of our star clients:
Telephone and Online Conferencing
- Call circles. Group 5 or 6 older adults together who can reach out to each other on a regular basis. These groups can use online conferencing services so they can actually see faces and interact as a group.
- Schedule phone calls with loved ones and friends.
- Volunteers making phone calls from their home.
Portal TV© – smart TV cameras that provide full room view for each participant.
Plexiglass Partitions – Allows for face to face visitation, group crafts, or group movie watching.
“Known” Group Activities – allow for people to interact in small groups of 4 or 5 after they have quarantined 14 days.
- Socially space tables and schedule residents in shifts.
- Allow residents to “reserve” their dining time for meals.
Virtual Tours and Live Webcams
- Sunrises and Sunsets
- Saharan Animal Watching
- Bird Watching
- National Park live features
- Art Gallery Tours
- Museum Tours
- Worldwide Virtual Vacations
Yes, perhaps our world will need to become accustomed to drive-by celebrations and the use of physical barriers when we socialize. What we don’t have to do is quit having experiences or quit engaging in life. We just need to get creative in how we do it.
What symptoms of social isolation are you seeing and how are you engaging in life differently? We would love to hear from you! You can contact us by email at email@example.com or leave us a comment on our Facebook page.