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Encouraging Reluctant Seniors to Socialize

While most seniors make an effort to maintain contact with friends and family, others become withdrawn and refuse to socialize. Without a healthy social life, all people – especially seniors – are more prone to chronic illnesses, depression, cognitive decline, and even early death.

If your loved one remains isolated on purpose, it’s important to get them socializing again. The first step is to find out what is causing them to withdraw from society. Sit down with the person and tell them you’ve noticed they haven’t seen many people lately and you’re concerned they may be lonely. Then ask if there is anything you can do to help. Are they having trouble hearing conversations? Do they have transportation issues? Sometimes simply overcoming one major hurdle is enough to get a person back into the swing of things.

If no obvious reason is found, encourage the senior to see a doctor for an evaluation. It could be that depression, anxiety, dementia, or even incontinence are interfering with the person’s ability to feel comfortable around others.

After any health or logistical issues are addressed, the person may simply need a few gentle nudges to help them restore a healthy social life. Here are a few things to try:

  • If your loved one can no longer drive, offer to take them to visit friends or family. If that’s not possible, help them arrange transportation. Many communities have low-cost taxi or bus transportation for seniors.
  • Invite them to attend small gatherings or events, or ask if they would like a specific friend or relative to visit them.
  • If you visit the person regularly, try bringing along another family member or friend to chat with them.
  • Consider the senior’s physical abilities. If they have trouble walking or getting in and out of cars, they may prefer to have visitors rather than going out for socializing.
  • Consider whether the senior feels presentable. They may need help getting their hair done, doing laundry or shopping for new clothes.
  • If they are embarrassed to have people over because they can no longer keep up with housework, offer to clean once a week. Gather a few family members and make it into a social occasion of its own.  
  • If the senior lives alone, sign them up for Meals on Wheels. The service provides almost daily social contact along with low-cost, senior-friendly food.
  • Encourage family, friends, and trusted neighbors to stop by, call, or invite the senior for visits and take them on outings. Choose people whose company the senior previously enjoyed.

If your efforts seem to go nowhere or even cause the person distress, consult with a medical or mental health professional for further advice. Above all, don’t give up! Encourage your loved one gently and regularly without being so forceful that you cause anxiety. Often, a few small steps are all it takes to get a lonely person back into the social groove.

Author bio: Cynthia Helzel is a freelance writer specializing in copywriting and content creation for senior care businesses and organizations.