As life expectancy continues to increase, many older adults can look forward to living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Thanks to advancements in healthcare and technology, older adults now have the opportunity to pursue new hobbies later in life, engage in meaningful social activities, and continue contributing to their communities for many years to come.
While this is exciting news for most, these advancements may also lead to new stressors, especially for those who don’t have access to the support they need as everyday tasks become more difficult. Even the most independent may experience difficulty adjusting to and even enjoying the newfound independence that comes with living longer.
Loneliness and social isolation, which have been linked to serious health conditions later in life, are also growing amongst the older adult population, making some older adults even more susceptible to the negative impacts of aging.
The good news is that helping the aging population doesn’t have to be hard. With the right support, resources, and connections, many older adults can continue to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. You may have already thought about lending a hand to the aging population, but perhaps you didn’t know where to start.
Here are five practical ways you can give back to the older adults closest to you:
1. Stay in touch.
A simple phone call or visit can make a huge difference in the life of an older adult—so much so that they’ve even been shown to be effective in reducing loneliness and depression in at-risk older adults. Listening to the stories, experiences, and perspectives of older adults can help them feel valued and connected to others in their community. Regular check-ins can also help friends and family members keep track of their well-being and take note of any differences in how they may be feeling. So, why wait? Pick up the phone and reach out to an older adult in your life today.
2. Volunteer your time.
Whether you’re an organization or an individual looking to make a positive impact, there’s no shortage of ways to encourage relationship building and engagement in the community. Intergenerational programming, or programs that connect multiple generations, promote learning and skill development, break down age-based stereotypes, and foster understanding across all ages. Teens can provide technology lessons and companionship for older adults, and older adults can mentor local youth and help with childcare services. Intergenerational programming offers countless benefits for people of all ages.
3. Offer to help.
No matter where you live, there are older adults who can benefit from your help. Driving to a doctor’s appointment, shopping for groceries, and performing everyday tasks might not be easy for those who are grappling with changes in finances, nutritional needs, and physical mobility. To make matters worse, living alone and having smaller social circles leaves many older adults seeking companionship in addition to assistance with basic errands. Offering a ride, engaging in conversation, or even preparing a hot meal might make all the difference in someone’s day, let alone their ability to care for themselves.
4. Join the age-friendly movement.
Whether someone is using a walker or pushing a stroller, we all stand to benefit from creating communities that are designed to meet the needs of all ages. From well-maintained sidewalks and accessible public transportation to affordable housing and community centers, age-friendly communities are designed to promote social inclusion, health, and well-being for people of all ages. In doing so, communities are both better equipped to serve the aging population and to help all residents stay healthy, connected, and active.
5. Connect the dots in your community.
Navigating the aging network and finding the right resources can be tricky. As more adults choose to age in place, many may not know where and how they can access additional support in their own communities. Fitness classes, art programs, nutrition education classes, and healthy aging workshops are only helpful if people know how to find them. Making a referral on behalf of your family member or neighbor, helping them enroll in workshops or social programming opportunities at the local council on aging, or connecting them to the nearest area agency on aging are all good places to start.
We should all do our part to help the older adults living in our own communities. Learning more about how we all benefit when older adults remain engaged, independent, and included is just the first step.
Supporting the aging population can be simple but impactful, making the efforts outlined above all the more important as we strive to create communities that support and include all who live there. By offering our time, patience, and support, anyone can make a positive difference in the lives of the older adults we know or have yet to meet.
Are you passionate about healthy aging? Learn from industry experts and connect with others who support the aging community like you do!
Watch our webinar, Aging Reimagined: Building Bridges to Better Aging.
Whether you’re a healthcare professional, social care provider, caregiver, or simply someone who cares about the well-being of older adults, this webinar will provide valuable insights and inspiration for improving the lives of older adults.
About Unite Us
Unite Us is the nation’s leading software company bringing sectors together to improve the health and well-being of communities. We drive the collaboration to identify, deliver, and pay for services that impact whole-person health. Through Unite Us’ national network and software, community-based organizations, government agencies, and healthcare organizations are all connected to better collaborate to meet the needs of the individuals in their communities.