The importance of socialization for those in their twilight years cannot be overstated. As people age and begin to lose their independence, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to get out and socialize. Add to this the fact that part of the aging process involves the loss of loved ones and friends—and that children eventually grow up and become busy with their own families and lives—and one can see how getting old be an incredibly lonely experience.
Humans are by nature social creatures, and engaging in conversation and activity with others keeps us mentally sharp and emotionally alert. Although there are times in life when it behooves us to be alone, generally speaking we are emotionally fed by relationship and social interaction, and tend to stagnate when forced into situations of involuntary solitude. As years pass and the elderly begin to feel increasingly out of place in the context of modern lifestyle and social norms—and as friends and family begin to pass away and children become distracted by their own lives—it is easy for people to get lost between the cracks.
When designing an elder care facility—or designing an individual caretaking program—it is essential to including opportunities for socialization. These may include hiking or sports events, bridge or chess clubs, concerts and other presentations of the arts, or any number of other activities. Although it is not appropriate to force socialization, by getting patients to come out of their comfort zones and attend events that facilitate interaction, we can provide them with opportunities to create new relationships and friendships with their peers. It is also possible to set up multi-generational visitations and/or mentorships, which can allow elderly patients to interact with young people in mutually beneficial relationships. No matter what form it takes, socialization plays a huge role in the overall happiness, longevity and quality of life of elderly patients, and should be facilitated whenever possible.