The Importance of Companionship in Aged Care

Loneliness & seniors | How aged care helps | Social interaction benefits | Providing companionship

Posted 14th December 2023  |  3 minute read

Written by Jesse Gramenz Reviewed by Julie Dymock

illustration of two ladies playing cards in aged care

Mum or Dad stuck in a corner, no attention for anyone, no visitors -- people form their own opinions about what aged care is like. But the reality is aged care providers are very aware of the benefits of social interaction for older adults in aged care and do a lot of different things to encourage it. What those things are and how they happen -- we’re about to find out.

What loneliness means for seniors

Loneliness isn't just an emotional issue. It's not just something you 'feel'. Loneliness is a problem that can affect every part of an older person's life.

In fact, research has shown that loneliness can be as harmful as smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day.

How aged care can help

It's no surprise that aged care providers take loneliness seriously: that's where companionship comes in. No matter who you are, as an aged care resident, you deserve to have people that care about you and have programs designed to help you feel included.

  1. A friend knocking on your door to see if you're doing ok;
  2. A pastoral carer sitting down with you for a cuppa;
  3. A staff member giving you a smile as they change out your towels and bedsheets;
  4. Spending time in a walking group out getting some sun & vitamin D
  5. Or even playing a couple rounds of bridge in the games room.

There are literally hundreds of different people & programs that make an aged care home a community -- not just a place to grow old in.


Read on:

 

“And since Dad’s been gone ... she’s eaten so many meals alone. And now she’s got her gang. Like she’s got her beautiful table and she’s getting to share three meals a day with people.”

“That is such an absolute blessing because she’s actually got that connection again. I think that’s made so much of a difference in her mental health.”

“There’s this ‘on-tap company’ that she has, but she can always go back to her room to be alone.”

 

Benefits of Social Interaction for Older Adults

Whether it's in a group or one on one, there are many benefits to companionship and social interaction.

Mental Stimulation: Engaging in conversations keeps the mind sharp and active.

Physical Health: Socially active seniors often have better cardiovascular health and immune responses.

Reduced Risk of Depression: Interaction combats feelings of isolation, a leading cause of depression in the elderly.

Longevity: Believe it or not, having a vibrant social life can actually extend one's lifespan!

 

How to Provide Companionship for Seniors in Aged Care

No aged care provider wants to see residents feeling lonely. We know better than anyone the negative effects that loneliness can have on people.

A study delved into older adults' experiences with social participation in group physical activity programs. The findings revealed that the programs significantly increased social interaction, fostered relationships, and promoted a sense of belonging. But it's not just groups that can have a positive impact.

There's so many different kinds of activities in aged care and in fact, we would go as far as to say (even if it does sound cliche) there is literally something for everyone:

  1. Intergenerational programs: Companionship programs partnering with local schools or colleges for intergenerational programs where students and seniors can learn from each other.
  2. Pet Therapy: Dogs, cats, birds and sometimes even visits from farm animals & reptiles! The unconditional love of animals can be incredibly therapeutic.
  3. Volunteer Programs: Encourage community members to spend time with seniors.
  4. Technology: Facilitate video calls with family members or friends.
  5. Gardening Clubs: Create a community garden where seniors can plant and nurture their favorite flowers or vegetables.
  6. Cooking Classes: Organize sessions where they can learn new recipes or share their own.
  7. Storytelling Sessions: Encourage seniors to share personal stories or write memoirs.
  8. Art and Craft Workshops: Introduce activities like pottery, knitting, or painting.
  9. Music Therapy: Host sing-along sessions or invite local musicians for performances.
  10. Dance Classes: From ballroom to chair dancing, get those feet moving!
  11. Board Games & Bingo: Classics like chess or newer games can stimulate the mind.
  12. Armchair Travel: Organize virtual tours of exotic destinations using VR technology.
  13. Book Clubs: Discuss novels, biographies, or even create a senior's book-writing club.
  14. Photography Classes: Teach basics and organize photo walks within the facility.
  15. Nature Walks: If possible, arrange for guided nature walks in nearby parks.
  16. Puzzle Competitions: Sudoku, crosswords, or jigsaw puzzles can be both fun and mentally stimulating.
  17. DIY Workshops: Simple home projects like making birdhouses or decorating frames.

 

“It’s good to have a best friend. It’s wonderful,”

“We like just sitting on the balcony, having a drink and enjoying each other’s company. Just one drink and that’s all we need.”

“You see one, you see the other.”

 

Parting Thoughts

The essence of life, regardless of age, is connection. For older people, companionship isn't just a luxury; it's a necessity. Aged care providers take companionship and relationships seriously. By knowing about the different ways residents stay connected during their stay in aged care, you can feel more comfortable knowing that an aged care move doesn’t mean Mum or Dad are stuck in a corner. And if you do have any concerns, you’ll feel confident to ask aged care providers the right questions.


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