Social Support As A Person Ages
As a person ages, social support of relatives and friends decline due to death or illness of loved ones, and children moving far away. Most people do not choose isolation over the pleasure of being with those they love or enjoy. Support from others can be important in reducing stress, retaining physical health and keeping at bay feelings of depression and anxiety.
Most people think first of their family when considering where to get social support. Often this is limited due to distance, illness, their own family obligations or work. This is also true for friends. Community based events or services then become more important.
Support for elderly persons can be found in service centers, adult care centers, assisted living facilities, religious groups, or simply coffee hours in an apartment building. Taking part in activities in these settings can help deflect loneliness and isolation. Sometimes just being in the setting and talking with people is enough. But studies have shown that social support services should include quality activities to promote positive self awareness.
Self awareness is a key to a person's overall quality of life and satisfaction. Leisure social activities such as reminiscence groups, journal writing, readings of favorite book passages, group exercise, singing groups, etc., help increase an individual's self awareness. If the elder person can be a part of the planning of those activities, he or she will feel much more satisfied.
There are estimated to be about 15,000 Senior Citizen Centers in the United States. These centers act as a focal point for older Americans to receive many aging services. The most common services offered at a senior center include heath programs, including Zumba and Yoga, arts/humanities activities, intergenerational programs, community action opportunities, transportation services, volunteer opportunities, education programs, financial assistance, senior rights/legal services counseling, travel programs and meal programs. It was quite a sight seeing my 82 year old mother in-law demonstrate to her grandchildren how yoga enabled her to stand on her head. Not only did she shock the younger generation, but she pleased herself immensely. And of course, she is in very good physical condition.
Adult Day Care Centers can be very helpful for people who are less agile and alert than my mother in-law. According to the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA), there are currently more than 4,600 adult day care centers nationwide. Adult day care is a program in which activities are provided to promote social support and health services to an older adult during the daytime. Most centers operate Monday through Friday during daytime hours. Social support series at an adult day care can consist of musical entertainment and singing groups, group games such as cards, gentle exercise, discussion groups (books, films, current events), holiday/birthday celebrations and local outings. Not only are these social activities provided, but participants of the program can also develop lasting relationships with staff and other participants. Adult day care centers also provide meals and health services. Adult day care centers differ from other programs for elderly individuals, because they allow the participants to develop and increase self-awareness by encouraging independence.
Amanda describes her experience as a volunteer at her local adult day care center. She stated, "I was involved in planning the activities for Thursday afternoons. I wasn't sure what kind of activities my older friends would enjoy so I had them share their favorite activities they participated in when they were my age (23). I soon realized that I was hearing the most fascinating stories of hopping trains, college dances, swimming in the lake, etc. We decided Thursday afternoons would be spotlights of each individuals' lives as a twenty-something. One of the participants told me that Thursday became a highlight for her week."
For those who are caring for their spouse or parent, the time away gives a vital break from the daily stress of providing care. Adult Day Care Centers and Senior Citizen Centers help to provide an elderly individual the opportunity to participate in social support activities. These can be beneficial to a person's quality of life and overall satisfaction. With a higher self-awareness and quality of life, an individual can reduce the risks of mental and physical health problems as they age.