By Anna Hazard
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Here are a selection of further senior appropriate activities, events, and other suggestions for helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness and social isolation that can commonly occur as one ages. The focus is on more Maryland specific resources, but similar organizations & events should be available in various states throughout the country.
Adopting a pet has many health benefits for seniors who have a suitable living situation as well as the proper physical capacity (or access to other assistants who can help) to take care of said pet. There are many programs in particular to help seniors adopt & take care of their potential pets including Pets for the Elderly, Seniors for Seniors, and other pet care resources.
While dogs, cats, and other furry creatures (such as hamsters, rabbits, and ferrets) are common staples when it comes to animal companions (and can provide physical & sensory therapy when it comes to grooming or otherwise touching their fur), there are a wide variety of pets available for various living conditions from fish tanks in small apartments to therapy horses on farms with available fields.
In general, a pet of any type can provide a source of companionship, physical interaction, as well as giving the owner a routine to accomplish every day. This encourages a more active lifestyle when it comes to meeting the needs of said pets with activities such as walking dogs outdoors with other people, visiting vets for pet check-ups, or taking part in pet owners groups & events.
For those seniors who have living situations where pets are not allowed (such as within nursing homes) or where the preferred type of pet is now allowed (ie a small apartment may have room for a fish tank, but not for a dog or cat), traveling therapy pet visits can be scheduled from such organization as Pets on Wheels, Therapy Dogs International, Pet Partners, and Paws for People (with Maryland in particular having Fidos for Freedom, Caring Canines, and Wags for Hope).
More details on the benefits & drawbacks of various pets for seniors can be seen in our Best Pets for Seniors series.
Community volunteerism is another potential way for more physically capable seniors to increase their social circle and activities. In general, community service tends to make one feel more satisfied with themselves while also increasing social interaction. Depending upon the fitness level, health condition, mobility, and personal interests of the senior in question, volunteer work can vary from helping to clean up the local neighborhood, to outreach programs for other housebound seniors, to organizing community events.
For particular senior appropriate volunteer opportunities, one can check through organizations such as RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), AARP Volunteer Wizard, or Senior Corps. The local Department or Area Agency on Aging as well as various senior centers may also have a list or database of senior volunteer opportunities (such as those found on the Baltimore County Government site)
Field trips are often a common staple found at Adult Day Care centers, but one does not need to be enrolled in such a program in order to enjoy a field trip or other excursion. Depending upon one's mobility, health conditions, and individual interests, a field trip can be as ambitious as going to a foreign country for a couple of weeks to more comfortable and convenient trips to a local market, park, play or movie. In all cases, these field trips would be a break in the daily routine to step outside of the household and go somewhere new or enjoyable.
While short trips can easily be taken by oneself or jointly with a friend or family member, those seeking larger, more organized trips can go on planned outings through the local senior center (which would have the additional benefits of more interaction with other seniors as well as the presence of assistants for those with mobility issues).
Participating and accredited senior care centers can usually be found through the local Department or Area Agencies of Aging as well as through compendium website such as Senior Center Directory, Senior Directory, or National Institute of Senior Centers (including NISC accredited centers).
Home Visitations & Assistants
While in-person home visits can be scheduled for companionship needs only, most home assistants are called in to also help with daily activities (such as dressing, bathing, doing chores) as well as helping those with mobility problems leave the house (to visit nearby friends, shop at stores, go to doctor's appointments, etc). Such services as morning wake-up and medicine reminders, lunch time check-ins, and more extended care visits are available through home care agencies such as Ella Stewart Care in the Baltimore region.
For those who are homebound, there are a variety of free to low cost home visitation & senior outreach services that can normally be found listed on the local Area Agency on Aging, local community or governments sites, or through various religious associations. Another option for those with more mobility but lacking in transportation are free to discounted senior transportation programs directly to and from the household.
In particular, some Maryland based sources would include...
For those seeking contact through a phone, a toll free accredited Friendship Line is also available from the Institute on Aging for those aged 60+ years and older as well as other adults living with disabilities.
News updates, tips, and guides on senior care, senior health, stress relief and a host of other caregiving related topics from the professionals at Ella Stewart Care.