August 30th, 2010 at 2:12 am
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Let’s Get Together: One of the Keys to Successful Aging

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Keeping engaged in life is an important aspect for successful aging. The increased attention on the value of staying connected for health reasons is well known and what a great opportunity to challenge your brain as well. Many seniors are able to maintain active schedules, frequently busier after retirement, trying new experiences and meeting new people.

Then there are those who are less interested in expanding their horizons. Others may have been the type preferring some alone time mixed with periodically getting together with friends and family. When working with patients, I try to find ways to keep them engaged by learning their previous patterns and interests, then suggest ways families might be able to increase socialization with activity recommendations and modifications if indicated.

My mom was a very lovely lady who enjoyed her family visits, occasional trips, church functions and keeping in touch with close friends. As she got older, she valued the days she volunteered for the Red Cross. When she moved into an assisted living, she was still driving and looked forward to doing her errands and socialized at meals and with a few of the other residents but she attended only a few of the activities. She kept her mind active with her regular routine of reading, puzzles, and games of Scrabble, something we always did when I came to visit. Like many others who may have difficulty as changes in health occur, or reduced abilities with hearing, vision and memory become evident, she sometimes felt uncomfortable with her hearing loss around others, especially in groups.

A friend’s mom missed her volunteering and seeing the friends she had made for many years now that she could not drive. The family hired a companion for three hours a week and their routine was to go to breakfast then do the volunteering for another hour or more. The woman has some mild dementia and this option allowed her to do some of the simpler volunteers tasks with some assistance. They became good friends and when she developed vision problems, the aide spent the time making her a favorite lunch then reading stories to her that she enjoyed. Her circle of socialization became smaller but this solution allowed her a level of interaction in addition to the time spent with family and close friends.

The daughter of one of my clients needed some ideas to keep her mom more engaged since she noted some loneliness and depression setting in. A suggestion was made to invite the members of her mother’s church group to coffee and dessert once a month and show some videos from the trips they had taken with the church through the years. Because she was getting more forgetful, many of her friends were reluctant to spend time with her on their own. They did not know what to do when she repeated questions or kept telling the same stories over and over. With her daughter there, the mom had a new socialization opportunity which actually led to a few of the ladies stopping by more often once they understood some better ways to approach the repetition issues.

” We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

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