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Staying social, or maintaining personal contact and relationships with family, friends and other seniors, can help your elderly loved one remain physically healthy, happy and mentally active. How important is it for your elderly loved one to stay social? According to the AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect initiative, isolation among seniors can result in feelings of detachment, both physical and psychological, and can be as harmful to their health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In Colorado, the numbers are starting: the Pew Research Center has identified a number of Colorado counties as the most rapidly aging in the United States, and as of December 2016, close to one-third of Denver’s 69,000 elderly residents are presently at risk from the effects of isolation.

Protecting your elderly loved one from isolation doesn’t require you to upend your life or to become a full-time caregiver, but there are a number of important steps you and your family can take to help motivate them to maintain a social lifestyle!

Ensure That Your Elderly Loved One Has Access to Transportation

Seniors, especially those that are unable to drive, often depend on others for transportation, and a lack of transportation or mobility can lead to self-imposed isolation. At GoldLeaf, we offer transportation services as part of our senior care services, including transportation options to complete errands, watch movies, and attend outdoor activities, lectures, adult education classes, church services, medical appointments and travel to and from the airport.

If your elderly loved on lives within the Regional Transportation District, consider purchasing an RTD Ticket Book or Monthly Pass, which are available at a discounted rate for seniors 65 years and older. RTD also offers SeniorRide transportation services for groups of ten or more riders. Having an easy and convenient way to access and pay for public transportation can help your elderly loved one adjust to using alternative transportation methods, especially if they are transitioning away from driving themselves in an automobile. Sit down with your elderly loved one and ensure that they understand which routes to take to reach each destination.

Ride sharing mobile apps from companies such as Uber and Lyft are becoming increasingly-popular alternatives to taxis and public transportation, but these services may be too complicated and confusing for a senior that is not technologically-savvy.

Alleviate Concerns About Health and Injury

It may be difficult and/or embarrassing for your elderly loved one to admit, but ongoing health issues or the fear of injury outside of the home may be causing them to avoid or cancel social events. Many seniors fear a loss of independence, and they may be hesitant to share the real reasons why they are limiting their mobility and avoiding social events. If you suspect this may be the case, sitting down and having a frank discussion about specific solutions to these concerns can help your elderly loved one feel more secure and more comfortable with the idea of leaving home, even for relatively short periods. A relatively benign issue such as incontinence can be easily addressed with assistance, but the fear of embarrassment stemming from a public episode of incontinence can result in a more severe level of isolation.

Help Your Elderly Loved One Reconnect

The barriers to social activity among seniors aren’t always physical or related to physical health and mobility – in fact, isolation is often a self-imposed state brought on by a loss of connection to important places and institutions such as employers, community centers and houses of worship. If your elderly loved one recently retired or relocated to a different city, state or community, they may not be emotionally prepared to seek out a new professional, personal or religious circle.

If you believe that your elderly loved one is self-isolating, they may need help connecting with a new institution or community. For instance, if your elderly loved one hasn’t expressed interest in attending a new church or house of worship, offer to accompany them to a service or two. If your elderly loved one utilized a community center to socialize, help them seek out an alternative facility or program in your area that may provide comparable services. At GoldLeaf, we also offer “Complete Companionship” services with senior care, which can include walking, “brain games,” reading, group picnics and book study.