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Social Connections as a Lifeline

Does your loved one’s aging in-place plan include fun and recreation? Do they have a SELF- care plan? Their quality of life could depend on it.

Several years ago when I was a senior center director, a patron told me something that dramatically changed my approach to my career. I was preparing coffee and chatting about the day ahead when out of the blue she looked at me and said, “You know, you’re saving lives here.”

My first reaction was to be incredulous. My day was spent developing recreation programs. Of course, they were fun and educational. Sure they provided plenty of opportunities for people to meet others. However, I didn’t believe my work rose to the level of saving lives. That was more for firefighters, EMTS’ police officers or social workers.

My patron continued to explain, that if she didn’t have the senior center to go to, her quality of life would be dismal. Research backs her up. Loneliness and social isolation are detrimental to a person’s health. Social connections are a lifeline for many people.

The situation is more concerning for older adults who aren’t able to leave their homes easily. For these folks, including social and recreation programs is paramount. It should be a central part of a well-rounded care management plan.

Any recreation and leisure plan, whether it’s your loved ones or yours (yes you too) should focus on the components of S.E.L.F. These components are Self-actualization, Esteem, Love and Fun.

Self-actualization is the first component. Were those life-fulfilling goals achieved? What are some activities they would like to be able to do again? How did you or your loved one spend each day?

Plan for esteem building. Happiness and fulfillment are life long pursuits that help bring out the person each of us is meant to be regardless of where we are in life. Select leisure activities that are purposeful and meaningful; that foster dignity and independence as well.

Do you remember the last meal you ate that made you smile? That’s because it was cooked with love. Bringing out the smile in your loved one with fun activities that include some of their favorite pastimes along with some new ones is a fantastic way to show your love.

Don’t forget to have fun! It’s really the most important component. This means expanding on those activities that in the words of Marie Kondo “spark joy”. Bringing joy to someone is essentially a shot of energy to the spirit. When the spirit is happy, life is better. Previous hobbies can be revived with adaptations if needed.

Help your loved one feel like they are themselves again with an emphasis on social connections and SELF-care.