In childhood, play is practically a way of life. It’s how kids relate to one another, how they spend their free time, how they discover the world around them. As we age, however, play seems to become less and less of a focus in our everyday lives. Work and responsibility begin to take center stage, and play is often relegated to a tiny corner of our minds. The truth is play remains as valuable and important as ever, regardless of age. In fact, learning to reprioritize play can bring about major benefits for seniors in terms of health and wellbeing.
Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about the importance of human connection in seniors’ lives. Socialization seems to be a major gateway to overall health and a longer lifespan, and curating a sense of community can have immense benefits with regard to a senior’s ability to thrive. One interesting byproduct of this human connection piece is the opportunity for laughter.
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It’s been just about a year and a half since the pandemic first reared its ugly head and began reshaping the “normal” we’d been accustomed to living. Now, with vaccine distribution in full swing, as well as declining numbers of severe illnesses from COVID, we’re seeing the beginnings of recovery from such a challenging time in our lives.
There’s no shortage of challenges seniors face when it comes to staying connected to the larger community. From diminished mobility and lack of transportation options to the inevitable loss of family and friends in their social circle, it can be difficult to maintain a strong base of human relationships and a wide sense of community. But these aspects of a senior’s life are critical to healthy aging and the capacity to thrive.
The housing market is booming. After a year of pandemic-style living, it seems homes are flying off real estate listings in a matter of hours—that’s if they even make it there at all. Mortgages reached historic lows, and the demand for housing is at an all-time high. In fact, the National Association of Realtors recently reported the median sales price of homes to be up over 17 percent since last year.
Over the last 30+ years, the field of interpersonal neurobiology has emerged as a framework for studying the effects of relationships on the human mind and body. It’s an area focused on the fundamental role of human connection in our lives. Whereas important aspects of physical and mental health, like diet and exercise, have long been recognized as leading contributors to a long and healthy life, many researchers, scientists, and medical professionals are now acknowledging interpersonal relationships as an undeniable influence on living and aging well.
Guilt, by any measure, is one of the most difficult feelings senior caregivers face when transitioning a loved one from home to a care facility. Family members who find themselves up against this decision do not typically go into it lightly, often laboring over the question of what’s best for the senior in their life. Many times, the move is dictated by unforeseen circumstances or newly emerged medical conditions that make it impractical to care for the loved one at home. Whatever the case, both the decision and the logistics of placement can leave a caregiver riddled with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
It could be argued that no widespread experience has shed greater light on the universal need for face-to-face contact and personal connection than the global pandemic. Amidst this seismic threat to public health, people around the world have been rattled by overwhelming fear, stress and social isolation. For many, this reality has been accompanied by an unmistakable appreciation and longing for the kind of interaction that used to mark our everyday lives before the onset of COVID.
Stress doesn’t discriminate based on generation, and no matter what’s going on in a senior’s life, there’s potential for them to suffer from the physical and emotional effects of stress. Circumstances like illness, loss of a loved one, loss of independence, a strained relationship, a move or other difficult changes to their daily life could be major contributors to stress. Learning how to understand and identify that stress is critical to working through it or supporting the senior in your life as they experience it.
While the pandemic wages on and we edge closer to one full year of the often overwhelming threat of COVID-19, some things remain steady as ever—like the clockwork transition from one season to the next. As the onset of blustery, cold weather kicks into high gear, many seniors and their loved ones are challenged to maintain a strong focus on safety and social distancing, all without succumbing to the potentially harmful effects of social isolation, cabin fever and boredom.
Some of the first images that come to mind when thinking about the holidays are those so-called sugar plums dancing in our heads. From stuffed turkeys and sweet potato pies to rich side dishes and sweet treats, there’s a seemingly endless array of festive delights to tempt the taste buds. While it’s fine to indulge in seasonal savories from time to time, it’s also important for seniors to keep their health and nutrition in check.