Social interaction has never been more vital for the elderly. Discover how to begin a fulfilling career in care that makes a real difference in people’s lives.
Naturally, people are social beings who flourish in the company of others. As biological anthropologist Dr. Michale Platt once said, “Human beings are wired to connect – and we have the most complex and interesting social behaviour out of all animals.”
Therefore, loneliness and isolation are crucial issues for older people, especially when they lose their independence to sustain social relationships and maintain interactions. And with an ageing population, this problem will only increase without the necessary support and care networks available.
In this piece, we discuss the importance and benefits of social interaction for the elderly and the vital role you can play by embarking on a career in adult social care. Let’s explore.
Why is Social Interaction Important for the Elderly?
As people enter the latter stages of life, the day-to-day can change significantly with loved ones passing and family moving away. These aspects of life can cut people off from their personal connections and community, while their mobility and coherence can also deteriorate over time.
Age UK reports that more than 2 million people in England over 75 live alone, with more than a million potentially going over a month without speaking to friends, neighbours, or family members.
Loneliness and isolation can have a severe effect on physical and mental health. For example, depression and anxiety can impact anyone struggling with a lack of social interaction. Social isolation is also associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia.
Beyond the negative impacts of minimal human interaction, it can be unsafe to live alone without support in case someone falls or has a stroke. Increased social interaction can help combat these threats to those more vulnerable. Whether it’s just a simple fortnightly visit for a cup of tea or to deliver the weekly shop, it can make a huge impact on someone feeling the impact of loneliness.
Support work in adult social care offers opportunities for people to make this difference, providing that much-needed company in times of need.
The Benefits of Social Interaction for Elderly People
Now we know why older people should be protected from isolation and loneliness, but what are the benefits of social interaction for the elderly and why?
Safety and Security
Regardless of age, most of us will always feel safer in the company of others we trust. So, when we become older and more vulnerable, this feeling increases and requires support from others.
As a support worker in adult social care, you can be a reliable and dependent companion to older people when their friends or family may no longer be close.
Simply being around others provides them with a feeling of safety and peace of mind in knowing that no one is ever too far away. This basic dynamic goes a long way in relieving anxiety and giving elderly people the confidence to live without fear.
Improves Mental Health
As people get older, their opportunities for social interaction can decrease. This situation is detrimental to mental health and can trigger depression and anxiety while potentially provoking dementia symptoms.
Unfortunately, depression is common in the elderly, especially when they’re suffering from illness or grieving the loss of loved ones. However, human connections and social interaction encompass multiple benefits that can boost a person’s mental health.
From engaging in physical activities to healthier eating and general wellbeing, by staying connected, the elderly make connections to improve their general wellbeing, health and happiness.
Working as a support worker or nurse in elderly care can provide this necessary support and improve the mental health of numerous clients who require care in your local community.
The older people get, the more the brain requires stimulation to support it to prevent mental health issues and physical disabilities from developing.
But by maintaining social interactions and relationships, we naturally increase our blood flow to the brain. This function works by processing complex information and adapting to other people’s behaviours and communication styles. Therefore, elderly people can help stimulate their brains simply through social activity.
Mental stimulation tasks can also reduce these symptoms and are best performed in groups to create community and collaboration.
As a support worker working in a daycare centre or nursing home, no doubt there will be numerous opportunities to host social opportunities that provide mental stimulation for your elderly residents to support them to feel mentally sharper and physically healthier for longer.
Stepping outside our comfort zones can be difficult, particularly when years of growing older have made us become settled in a certain way of life. But in remaining open to social interaction, older people get introduced to new opportunities, such as learning sessions, classes and other activities.
However, remaining curious about new possibilities through social interaction can help older people suffering from isolation and loneliness. As a support worker in adult social care, simply talking about your life and interests can offer a fresh perspective to someone from a different background or experience and vice versa.
Whether it’s that weekly trip to the daycare centre or the daily visit of an in-home support worker, people can provide others with purpose. We all have those friends we get excited to see, catch up and share our experiences with, and this doesn’t change as we age.
Sometimes later in life, when work is over, and children have all grown up, finding purpose again can be challenging. But having regular social opportunities to make friends and form connections can provide the all-important direction we all need in life, supporting our wellbeing and occupying our days with healthy and positive relationships.
Be the Face of Social Interaction for Elderly Care
At Herefordshire Cares, we have numerous clients across the county on the search for caring people and great listeners with multiple positions in elderly care roles.
You can make a difference as an elderly carer in your community while starting a fulfilling and enriching career in adult social care full of development opportunities and career progression.