We are all social creatures, and like everyone else, seniors need a good support network.
As they age, some seniors have an increasingly difficult time maintaining a support network of family, friends, and neighbors. And seniors may have an even greater need for support than younger people. Spouses who pass away, friends who move in with their children or move away, distant children, and mobility, hearing, or speech difficulties can make it harder to keep the circle of willing friends and neighbors.
There are several steps that children, concerned friends, and neighbors can take to build and nurture a support network for a senior.
A support network isn’t just a person willing to drive the senior to a medical appointment; some of the best support people can only use a phone, but are vital to a senior.
Friends, Neighbors, and Relatives
- Is the senior friendly with any neighbors in the apartment, condo complex, or area? Encourage him to reach out and communicate with neighbors who might bring comfort and companionship.
- Does the senior engage in any activities such as gardening, golf, book club, church, or professional societies? Gently encourage him to join and participate. These activities can eventually be a source for support.
- Does the senior have nearby relatives but seldom sees? This can get tricky, but occasionally a relative is pleased to regain contact with an older person in the family. Relationships can develop over time.
- Does the senior contact friends regularly? Sometimes friends drift away if the mutual contact isn’t kept up. Encourage him by gently suggesting he contact old friends.
Social Service Organizations
Most communities have some type of Senior Citizen assistance and the scope, functions, and cost of that assistance varies widely. Visit their website to investigate the services, options, and application requirements. Even if the senior doesn’t need or qualify for their services at the moment, be prepared to contact them in the future.
Personal Service Agencies
Some home health care agencies (both private and government) offer on-demand services such as driving seniors to medical appointments, staying with them during medical procedures, and performing routine housekeeping chores for a limited time. Identify local companies who perform such services, and be ready to contact them if and when the need arises. The costs will vary, so look for companies with a good reputation and relatively low cost.
If there are multiple children or relatives nearby, arrange a family meeting to discuss specific ongoing support needs such as driving to medical appointments, picking up prescriptions, helping with groceries, arranging repairs, and other items the senior may find difficult. Ask for volunteers rather than try to assign tasks. Approach the effort as a shared opportunity, and avoid placing an unfair burden on any one individual.
A good support network doesn’t spring up overnight. Consider this an ongoing effort that will can yield significant benefits over time.