In the years of experience we have had in building relationships with seniors, one of the lessons we have learnt is that whether they say it or not, they are essentially lonely and depressed, one often following the other.
Isolation and Its Effects
Loneliness is statistically proven to be a serious health risk, since it brings with itself a host of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In addition, there is a host of physical health problems brought on by loneliness, including but not limited to hypertension, cardiovascular ailments and stroke.
In the life of the elderly, given today’s societal structure, isolation is a common factor. Between nuclear families, children leaving homes for better opportunities and lack of companionship for multiple reasons, we have found that most elderly people are lonely, whether it is obvious or not.
Oftentimes, our care managers provide emotional companionship during their visits, which is seen to make a distinct difference in the lives of the elderly members.
However, the elderly people still feel the gap, not having someone who can understand them, not having the same experiences or the same mental wavelength. Because of the lack of confidence in venturing out by themselves, most seniors are unable to meet or spend time with friends and relatives who are of a similar age. This combined with the loss of friends and relatives leave a lot to be desired.
The Get – Together that Changed our View
Given the suggestions of our care managers, who have had a distinct bonding with the elderly members and therefore have a fair idea of what would be good for them, we thought of testing out an option wherein members have a chance of interacting with similar minded people.
Given that our members are in the similar age bracket, we considered a get – together, starting with about 15 members, to give them a way to meet with people. We were hesitant of it to begin with, given our notion that seniors would not be open to the idea of meeting strangers. However, we received a confirmation from all those we approached.
The anxiety of stepping out of the home was taken care of, since the care managers helped them with the travel and logistics. What did surprise us the most was the enthusiasm that the idea was met with.
We had our first get – together on the 25th of November, 2018, when the weather was pleasant with a hint of cold, a private gathering in a coffee shop that has newly opened.
What we experienced was an unexpected level of intimacy and bonding that occurred between the 14 senior members who we had brought together. Absolute strangers to each other, they found common ground, whether it was in a mutual love for music or reading, or in the sharing of the varied level of experiences that they have had.
Members who wouldn’t talk much otherwise opened up to others, recited poems, sang songs, and lived like they have not for a long time. Our first tea party taught us that socializing is much more important than we consider it to be. For our members, those few hours were the happiest that we had ever seen them.
Soon after, we received a number of calls and emails from the children living abroad. Some of them were of the children of the members who had attended the gathering, telling us that their parents could not stop talking about their experiences and wanted more of these tea – parties. Others were of those who wanted us to arrange something similar for their parents, having heard of the event.
Overwhelmed by the responses of our members, we have collectively taken a decision to host such tea parties once every 3 months to begin with.
The seniors of that evening have stayed in touch with each other and plan on meeting up soon again, and are looking forward to it.
No one likes being lonely, and most senior citizens do not know what to do about it. We hope to give them a chance at making friends and bonding with people again, something they have not done for a long time.
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