Maintaining healthy social connections is extremely important to all of us, for our health and well-being. But many older adults are aging alone. This means they have a higher chance of becoming socially isolated – a risk factor for elder abuse. Keeping in touch with our older relatives, friends or neighbours will not only reduce this risk, it will promote good health.
Having social connections supports overall physical, mental and emotional health and helps maintain brain health. People (of all ages) with strong social connections say they feel happier and more supported. For older adults who have lost a spouse or whose children have moved away to urban centres, other provinces, or countries, it can become harder for them to stay socially connected. Some of the risks of being socially isolated are:
- reduced mental health
- cardiovascular disease
- reduced physical health
- increased risk for abuse
Elder abuse affects seniors around the world. Because the population is aging, the risk of older people experiencing abuse is also increasing. Elder abuse may include physical, financial or emotional abuse, a caregiver administering too much or too little medication, abandonment, or social exclusion. And, if an abused senior has no one to talk to or depends on the abuser for companionship or care, it can be extremely difficult for them to find a way out of their situation.
If you or someone you know is being abused and you believe that person is in immediate danger, call 911. If you want assistance or information, contact the Seniors Abuse and Information Line at 1-866-437-1940 from anywhere in British Columbia, daily 8 am to 8 pm.
How You Can Prevent Social Isolation and Elder Abuse
Maintain regular contact with older adults in your life. Spend time with neighbours, family members, and older friends, and take advantage of summer’s longer days to connect. A few ideas:
- Take a walk. Being active with an older adult is a great way to socialize, plus it helps them stay physically strong. More on staying fit and active with age.
- Share a meal or cup of tea. Decreasing energy needs can make it more challenging for seniors to eat nutritious food. Making meals or tea time a social event is one strategy to help older adults with small appetites. Learn more.
- Go to an outing or event. Taking part in community events is a great way to stay connected. Of particular interest for seniors, the BC Seniors Games takes place each fall – now’s the perfect time to start training, volunteer at the event or become inspired!
- Help them get supports. Securing supports such as financial advice, legal documents, information on proper use of medication or care, housing and transportation options will help them be less vulnerable.
- Give them a call! They will love to hear from you.
The month of June is an invitation to connect with the older people in your life, meet new ones and help build a society where elder abuse is not tolerated. With awareness initiatives like Intergenerational Day Canada which took place on June 1, BC Seniors’ Week happening now (June 7-13), and World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, it’s a perfect time to show older adults how much you care.
Wear something purple – a t-shirt, tie, dress or even jewellery on June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to start the conversation about elder abuse and raise the visibility of this serious issue. Learn more about elder abuse prevention.
Author’s Bio: Today’s blog was written by staff at the Seniors’ Health Promotion Directorate (SHPD), Ministry of Health. The SHPD supports healthy aging, elder abuse prevention, age-friendly communities, social inclusion and the active participation of older adults in day-to-day life.
SeniorsBC.ca: Elder Abuse Prevention
SeniorsBC.ca: Social Connections
SeniorsBC.ca: Community Engagement and Connection
Seniors Abuse and Information Line
BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support
British Columbia Association of Community Response Networks
Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse