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Provided by Christine Thompson, PARC Retirement Living

January 22, 2015

Researchers and psychologists have known for years that remaining socially connected can keep depression at bay and help maintain normal levels of happiness. For seniors, this is particularly important to remember as they age. According to a 2012 report prepared by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the number one issue facing seniors in Canada is being socially connected and active. There are a variety of risk factors that increase the probability of social isolation for. Some of these include:  living alone, being 80 or older, having health issues or compromised mobility, having no family nearby or a lack of transportation. As a result, these socially isolated seniors are suffering. They are less able to participate and contribute within their communities, they lose their social skills and can develop depression, social anxiety and loneliness, even substance abuse. Social isolation also affects psychological and cognitive health in seniors.

In a Statistics Canada 2012 Health Report, almost one in four adults over the age of 65 (24%) said that they would have liked to have participated in more social activities in the past year. Additionally, Statistics Canada’s 2008/09 Canadian Community Health Survey found that 19% of individuals aged 65 or over felt a lack of companionship, left out, or isolated from others. 

Mobility is a significant factor in this equation. In order to socialize, one has to be able to get to the people and groups with whom to socialize. Without access to transit or a vehicle, or having options close at hand, participation in programs and regular social gatherings is virtually impossible.

The good news is that the retirement living industry has made great strides forward to help combat and minimize these challenges. Over the past decade, new services and new types of living have emerged to provide seniors with more options than ever before. For those who are still fairly independent in their living and care needs, yet desire a more social environment and access to group situations, activities, group dining, transportation and more, some retirement communities are providing the ideal blend of independence and group support.

Residences that are built in strategic locations for ease of access to shops, transit and other services in the community are a great choice. Some even offer complimentary transportation so there is no need to keep and maintain a car or deal with traffic and parking getting to appointments and outings. Indoors, there is often a library/business room housing the latest technology to help residents connect with family and friends, recreational groups, fitness activities, brain fitness sessions and other social endeavours. The resulting socialization and activity that occurs maximizes health, wellness and enjoyment of life.

As more socialization occurs amongst those who are in the same life stage and age, residents often claim to be happier than they’ve been in years. It is common for them to wonder why they didn’t move in sooner when they discover this type of living is not a loss of independence, but a gain.

More and more, independent retirement residences are becoming the ‘go-to’ for a full complement of social and wellness group options for many Canadian seniors, helping to combat social isolation in a meaningful way.

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