How to Reduce Social Exclusion of the Elderly
How to Reduce Social Exclusion of the Elderly
We rarely think about the problems faced by different social groups: we pass by the homeless and feel a pang of guilt, but don’t often dwell on it; we see teenagers being bullied, but we don’t take the time to intervene; we see mothers using food stamps for their kids’ meals, but we don’t lose too much sleep over it.
As modern humans, we have a diminished focus as is. Bothering with the challenges faced by others, so very different from us, is just not on our list.
There is one issue, in particular, we seem to push under the rug more often than not: the social exclusion of the elderly.
What is social exclusion?
Social exclusion is anything but simple, and it can’t be defined simply either. In short, we can say that it is denying a person the resources, services, and ability to participate in common relationships and activities that are accessible to the majority living in a certain society.
This has a significant negative impact on the quality of life of said person(s), and can even affect entire communities and family units. It can result in depression and further withdrawal from society. It leads to loneliness and a loss of self-worth and self-respect.
Opposite to that, we have social inclusion: maintaining good relationships with our family and the people around us, as well as having a role in society, feeling useful and respected.
Who is at risk?
Sad to say, but most seniors are at risk of social exclusion. Whether they live alone, with family, or in a care facility, most societies and most individuals don’t make an effort to include them in daily activities. As their health declines, seniors are often alone for longer periods of time, since they can no longer get about as well as they used to.
Of course, certain groups are always more affected than others: the underprivileged, those living in rural areas, those with no living relatives, those suffering from chronic disease, the disabled, and so on.
What can we do to reduce exclusion?
Let’s not dwell on the systemic solutions governments can and should adopt to help seniors live their best lives, without being left out and left behind.
Let’s explore what we as individuals can do to help reduce exclusion for the elderly:
Let them live at home for as long as they can
This might sound counterintuitive, but moving seniors out of the communities they have lived in all their lives can deepen their loneliness. When at home, they are familiar with their neighbours, they can socialize with the people they know, and they have at least a certain degree of support in place.
If you are worried about a senior living alone at home, start by installing a medical alert system. They have come a long way in the past decade, and they can make a senior feel much safer. Home care is also an option, as is organizing a neighbourhood care drive.
Encourage them to go out
If a senior is still able to get about on their own, encourage them to attend events and activities in their community that are put together specifically for their age group. If there is no such event, try to put one together with the aid of a local community centre or any other facility. Run a poll in the neighbourhood and see what the elderly would like to do.
Reducing exclusion is all about fostering inclusion – not on your terms, but theirs. Don’t force them to play chess or watch movies if they are more interested in piano lessons or dance classes.
Invite them over
Having the seniors in your life visit a couple of times a month is a great way to help them feel less alone. Of course, you might also want to take the party to their place, where you can put together a meal and a little shindig. Don’t make it a pity party, but an actual enjoyable gathering where you spend an evening with friends and family.
Help them move
If the seniors in your life have difficulty getting around, the best thing you can do to reduce their exclusion is to make them more mobile. True, a wheelchair or even a walking stick will pose certain (and sometimes seemingly insurmountable) difficulties – but do your best to find locations where you can go and spend time together, or hunt down the activities they can still attend.
Reducing exclusions should be up to all of us – not just government programs and the work of charities and nonprofits. If we all take a little time out of our week to make a senior feel like a valuable part of our society, they will be much more likely to socialize, get about, and live a healthier, more fulfilled life.
Sarah Kaminski earned her bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences. Due to her parent’s declining health, she decided to become their full-time caregiver. Now, she takes care of her loved ones and writes about the things she learned along the way.
Sarah is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and a curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.