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How to help socially isolated seniors

The elderly population is on the rise in many countries. Advancements in healthcare and a growing emphasis on healthy lifestyles means people are living longer than ever before.

Age is often accompanied by wisdom, but men and women may also find that feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression may also settle in as they grow older. The Journal of Primary Prevention published "A Review of Social Isolation," which observed how social isolation has been linked to numerous detrimental health effects in older adults. Some of these ailments may include increased risk for mortality, rehospitalization, falls, and dementia.

Individuals looking to give back to their communities may want to consider helping seniors in their area. Although it can be difficult to see seniors with diminished physical or mental capabilities, the rewards of interacting and helping seniors can be immeasurable. There are plenty of ways to help seniors avoid isolation and continue to live fulfilling lives.

• Provide transportation. A Place for Mom, a senior housing placement resource, notes that lack of adequate transportation is a main cause of social isolation among seniors. Voluntary or necessary cessation of driving makes getting to and from appointments or even recreational outings more difficult. Where public transportation is unavailable or challenging to come by, volunteers can help shuttle seniors to and from grocery stores, doctor's offices and any other places they need to go. Getting out regularly and seeing new faces can help seniors overcome feelings of loneliness.

• Participate in hobbies together. Give seniors a sense of purpose by encouraging them to participate in hobbies or activities. Book clubs are one activity that can interest people of different age groups.

• Encourage exercise. Physical exercise keeps the body fit and improves mental health. Seniors can benefit from physical activity because it promotes strong bones and a healthy cardiovascular system. In addition, seniors who enroll in exercise classes at gyms or local senior centers can meet like-minded adults, helping them overcome their feelings of isolation even further.

• Provide meals and companionship. Older adults may not be getting all they need to maintain healthy weights and bodily functions. Cooking and shopping for healthy foods may be difficult. Provide seniors with healthy meals when possible, and take the time to share those meals. This can foster conversations that keep seniors' minds sharp and also may help prevent social isolation.

Seniors can benefit from many different forms of support, and helping older adults is a worthy volunteer initiative.