As we age, different stages of life bring changes in physical and mental health, as well as changes in psychosocial well-being and diminished social roles. As children move out or a spouse or friends pass away, older adults may begin to feel the effects of isolation, which can have profound negative health consequences. Loneliness among older adults is quickly becoming a public health crisis in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, over one million seniors report feelings of loneliness and isolation. Feeling lonely affects your mood and mental state, and it can also lower cognitive function and increase the risk of premature death, heart attack, stroke, depression and dementia.
Dementia is the greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century. Currently, 47 million people worldwide are afflicted, and we must look at some of the potentially modifiable factors that contribute to the risk of dementia, such as social isolation, and find solutions. Dr. Adriana Shall, Manager and Professional Practice Chief of Social Work at Baycrest, recently spoke about the idea of co-housing, a new trend among older adults living independently, as a possible solution to fight isolation.
Co-Housing in Canada.
The concept of co-housing, the formation of an intentional group living together - or roommates - goes beyond practical financial arrangements, said Shall. "It's cheaper to live with somebody else but it's also better for our physical health and for our mental health" Living with roommates is not a new idea, but it is an emerging trend among older adults inthe Greater Toronto Area.
"By living together people form a community, especially people who once lived in a family, with a partner or children, or both. As they get older, they lose all of those supports that are inherent to living with others," added Shnall.
For older adults who once lived in a family but are now living alone, co-housing might be a great alternative to living alone or having to sell their home and move somewhere else. In terms of companionship, there is always someone to talk to, go for a walk with, play games with, etc.
The benefits of co-housing go beyond social companionship. Older adults may have a need for personal care support (e.g., help with bathing or other routine daily activities). Co-housing can offer this kind of assistance in a cost-effective manner if the care provider comes into the home and assists more than one person. When living in groups of two, three or more, older adults can find that their moods improve, they feel less anxious and have someone to share experiences with, reducing the risk of depression. Co-housing helps improve nutrition as well.
"When living with someone, you are more likely to set the table and make dinner every night. Instead of only cooking for one, when nutritious meals might turn into quick snacks or no meals at all, leading to a number of health concerns, meal times can once again offer an opportunity for social engagement," said Sylvia Davidson, Manager of Occupational Therapy & Therapeutic Recreation at Baycrest.
Isolation also increases the risk of serious falls among seniors. If someone is in a group, the consequences of a fall may not be as serious if someone is there to help or get help. And an unintended consequence, lasting fear of falling, with its associated isolation and withdrawal, may be reduced.
Beyond finding ways to fight social isolation through co-housing, activities that have a social
interaction components are important for all older adults; bringing meaning and purpose, while helping develop new friendships and support at a later stage in life. Baycrest is also looking past its campus boundaries to find ways to help fight isolation among seniors through community outreach programs and support services.
How to Build Relationships and a Community at 50+.
- Stay active in interests and hobbies.
- Learn a new skill or a new language.
- Take an exercise class such as yoga or tai chi.
- Volunteer at a local library or hospital.
- Find out if you can tutor or help at a local school.
- Connect with others at your place of worship.
- Reach out and stay connected with neighbours.
- Schedule meals with family and friends.
- Consider getting a pet.
Ensure you or your loved one is able to get out to activities by arranging transportation if you don't drive or use public transit. Ask a relative or friend for a ride. Use a transportation service for seniors, taxi or ride share app.
The Aspen Tree at The Forestias Operated by Baycrest is a Community to Boost the Well-Being of Older Adults
The Aspen Tree at The Forestias aims to provide the best living experience at 50+. The community looks after your physical and mental well-being and builds social relationships so you can live the life you want, enjoying health, happiness, and freedom from stress.
This concept inspires The Aspen Tree at The Forestias, designed and developed with research leaders and Canada’s world-leading Baycrest Crest to meet every need of older adults. You can live in a multigeneration community in The Forestias with comprehensive health and care (Holistic Lifetime Care). Full facilities and the Health & Wellness program enhance your lifestyle with activities such as yoga, swimming, singing, playing music, meditation, outdoor activities, hydrotherapy, and much more to keep your body, mind, and brain in great shape.
The Aspen Tree at The Forestias also has a Health & Brain Center to safeguard your health and wellness. The center’s experts can delay the onset of dementia and provide care to overcome brain and memory problems. A team of healthcare specialists is on hand 24 hours a day to keep you safe and well in every aspect.
Live free from cares in the free time of live... Let’s find the perfect life together.
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