A community that cares

Social isolation can lead to a decline in the elderly’s physical and mental health, sometimes even resulting in premature death.

The community plays a crucial role in supporting the well-being of its elderly members. Regular visits from relatives are particularly valuable as they contribute significantly to the emotional health of the elderly. Research indicates that, when seniors experience social isolation, it can lead to a decline in both their physical and mental health, sometimes even resulting in premature death.

Therefore, it’s imperative for the community to prioritise efforts to ensure that older adults can remain integrated and connected within their familiar surroundings. By facilitating opportunities for continued engagement and social interaction, we can help safeguard the health and longevity of our elderly population. This involves not only providing essential services and resources but also fostering a sense of belonging and purpose within their communities, where they have deep roots and cherished memories.

The crucial role of the community for senior citizens

The fabric of our community is woven from the threads of social interactions, encompassing both longstanding connections and fresh acquaintances, as well as family ties, various organisations, associations, and other networks. Together, these elements forge a profound sense of well-being and rootedness within our local landscape.

Our objective should centre on fostering a heightened communal spirit, wherein our elderly populace finds renewed avenues for engagement and contribution, perhaps even offering their expertise in domains they’ve long been affiliated with. This dynamic involvement serves to keep them vital and perpetually intertwined with fellow members of society, ensuring their continued enrichment and active participation in the fabric of our shared community.

How could the community lend a hand?

Individuals residing within a community serve as guardians of memories, cherishing experiences to later share with those they interact with most frequently. This exchange of memories serves to alleviate feelings of isolation, creating a sense of connection that distances them from solitude. As a result, there is a natural decline in instances of depression and dementia, among other conditions. This positive outcome is attributed to their sustained emotional engagement in communal activities and ongoing interaction with fellow community members. Such active involvement enriches the later stages of their life, ensuring they are enveloped by a vibrant and fulfilling environment.

Communities serve as reservoirs of new experiences, paving the way for future growth and development. The cohesion within a community fosters a sense of contentment among the elderly. Their engagement in activities and the formation of new memories not only enrich their own lives but also contribute to the collective memory of society. Whether they involve themselves in practical tasks, attend religious services, utilise local council facilities like libraries, partake in cultural festivities, or join community celebrations such as village feasts and Christmas receptions, each activity serves to fulfill our communal objectives. Moreover, this active involvement positively impacts their physical and mental well-being.

I advocate for the development of such platforms by the local councils, ensuring that all members of the community remain active and engaged, including their participation in council decisions and initiatives.

Assessment of health, safety, and overall well-being

An additional significant aspect underscoring the importance of elderly individuals remaining within their community is the provision of opportunities for their relatives, neighbours, and friends to extend support in cases of health, safety, or well-being concerns. This vital network of care is sustained by their ongoing engagement and involvement in community activities, ensuring a constant connection that fosters mutual assistance and solidarity

This principle extends to situations where an individual grapples with chronic conditions. Here, community members often possess the perceptiveness to discern the person’s needs and offer assistance as required. In such circumstances, the profound sense of belonging within the local community becomes especially evident, particularly for individuals who lack close relatives to rely on. Nonetheless, through collaborative endeavours, the community ensures that these individuals can sustain their residency and remain integrated within their community

In different circumstances, a person who is feeling isolated may choose not to attend parish services. When an individual unexpectedly misses a parish meeting, which they would typically always attend, it raises concerns. Likewise, if someone starts to withdraw from regular participation in monthly activities, it sparks questions about whether underlying thoughts or conditions are impacting their ability to engage with others. These situations illustrate the intricate relationship between social interaction and mental health.

Social interaction  fosters a sense of security among the elderly, as they recognise that there are individuals genuinely concerned about their safety, well-being, and welfare. This stands in stark contrast to the desolation of being forsaken in a hospital room, awaiting the embrace of death without the solace of companionship.

Beyond mere empathy, respect, and mutual obligation, the cherished values upheld by the community are akin to precious gold, indispensable for fostering progress within society.

How can we facilitate their sense of being integral and essential?

As observed, the role of elderly activism is pivotal, offering them a sense of purpose and fulfillment, fostering continued engagement and activity in this phase of life. Exploring diverse avenues, we can actively contribute to their thriving presence within the community.

1. Encourage them to participate in community activities

When senior citizens actively participate in community life, they contribute significantly to the overall well-being of the community. Implementing beneficial initiatives such as establishing libraries, day centres, cultural events, and associations dedicated to preserving local heritage and traditions can greatly enhance the community’s vibrancy. Importantly, these efforts extend beyond the elderly to include individuals who have lost their life partners after many years together. By providing meaningful engagement opportunities, these initiatives serve as a powerful antidote to loneliness and isolation.

2. Physical activities

By encouraging the elderly to participate in physical or sporting activities, with councils taking on a pivotal role either independently or in collaboration with local associations to organise such activities or develop other tailored games aimed at keeping the elderly actively engaged within the community. This initiative not only improves their physical health but also creates opportunities for them to establish new connections and socialise.

3. Virtual communities

The internet serves as a potent tool with vast potential for maintaining connections, even when individuals are physically separated. Through the organisation of family or friend groups, individuals can utilise a combination of phone calls, messages, and video calls to sustain regular communication with their loved ones. Moreover, tailored virtual communities cater to diverse interests, enabling members to engage in vibrant exchanges of experiences and ideas. These platforms often function as dynamic forums for sharing insights and perspectives. Despite the absence of physical presence, they evoke sensory stimulation, including the sense of touch. Furthermore, they offer avenues for discussing shared conditions, fostering a sense of solidarity and mutual support. The profound impact on mental well-being is immeasurable.

4. Homes for the elderly in the community

In situations where none of the previously mentioned alternatives prove to be suitable for an individual, it becomes imperative to advocate for the elderly to contemplate relocating to residences within their own community. This not only addresses feelings of loneliness but also ensures they remain within a familiar and supportive environment akin to family. Furthermore, such a move presents an opportunity for them to reunite with former neighbours with whom they shared many years of companionship, now residing in similar homes. This rekindling of connections fosters a profound sense of security as they are surrounded by familiar faces and shared memories. However, it’s important to note that this transition doesn’t preclude the possibility of forging new friendships and continuing to integrate within their community.

These homes often also feature sports facilities and cultural activities, which further contribute to fulfilling the goals we highlighted earlier.

A beautiful facet of life

Elderly individuals or those entering their twilight years embody a beautiful facet of life, particularly when one values living well and is fortunate enough to avoid certain health complications. Nonetheless, even in the face of health challenges, we have the capacity to cultivate an environment that caters to their needs. What could be more noble than becoming instrumental in assisting our elderly to live their elderliness within a community setting?

Certainly, if we acknowledge and actively strive towards this goal, not only would the community flourish, not only would their lives be enhanced, but also the lives of their descendants and our own would reap the rewards of their engagement in society. Their wisdom and life experiences hold the potential to impart a positive influence upon us all.

Photo: Kampus Production

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