Social engagement and connection have been shown to improve a person’s health and sense of wellbeing. People that are engaged and connected have greater mobility, are more likely to stay current on health screenings, have better cognitive health and are more likely to live longer.
Communities that provide residents with engagement opportunities also receive an array of benefits – from volunteer support to increased community pride. Communities can create and promote social engagement campaigns, programs and resources that enable older adults to stay connected and share their expertise.
Staying connected can be a challenge, but the negative impacts isolation and loneliness have on our health and wellbeing makes staying socially connected a necessity. A persistent feeling of loneliness can affect a person’s physical and mental health, and social isolation is associated with an increased risk for mortality. The CDC defines loneliness as "the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. Social isolation is a lack of social connections." To find out how connected you are, take AARP's isolation risk self-assessment.
Loneliness can affect anyone. The good news is that community involvement and connections can help reduce many of the effects of loneliness. There are a number of ways to stay connected so, regardless of your personality type, you can stay engaged and healthy in ways that are comfortable to you.
- Continue Learning: Learning can give you a feeling of accomplishment and help you build new skills. Universities and community colleges often offer lifelong learning classes. Your local community, senior center, or library is also a good place to look for learning opportunities.
- Be Civically Involved: Civic engagement addresses public concerns, gives older adults a way to meet like-minded people and provides an opportunity to make a difference. Find a cause you care about and get involved. If you are interested in being involved at the state or policy level connect with the Texas Silver Haired Legislature or apply to serve on an HHS advisory committee.
- Explore Recreation and Hobbies: Participating in group exercise, taking up a new hobby or being outside are great ways to be healthy and meet new people. Consider exploring classes at your local senior center, becoming a Master Naturalist or leading a Texercise class.
- Volunteer: Through volunteering older adults can share their time and expertise while meeting new people. To get started visit Volunteer Match, Create the Good or AmeriCorps Seniors.
Create New Connections
Know Your Neighbor
The Know Your Neighbor campaign encourages Texans to form and maintain new connections with older neighbors to help reduce the risks of isolation and loneliness. Five easy steps lead neighbors through the process and resources are provided to make creating connections easier. Organizations and communities can get involved with Know Your Neighbor and help to reduce isolation and loneliness in their own communities. Resources for individuals, organizations and communities can be found on the Aging Well Resources Order Form. Enter “Know Your Neighbor” in the resource name box.
Ages United: Intergenerational Connection Resources.
Intergenerational programs can reduce ageism, foster a sense of identity, create a sense of community, encourage the development of new friendships, improve mental health and boost self-esteem. Ages United resources help groups of young people, their teachers and leaders bring engagement options to residents of long-term care facilities.
- The Ages United Guide: Step-by-step guide to intergenerational engagement in long-term care settings. This guide is for groups of young people who would like to start volunteering in long-term care facilities and participate in meaningful engagement with residents.
- The Ages United Activity Planner for Social Emotional Learning (SEL)*: Designed for high school faculty to encourage students to build relationships with residents of long-term care facilities. The planner helps faculty plan activities that align with SEL curriculum.
Get started with Ages United, go to the Aging Well Resources Order Form and enter “Ages United” in the resource name box.
Volunteer Resources for Long-term Care Staff
Volunteers in long-term care facilities can enhance daily quality of life and well-being. Long-term care facilities staff can access resources to ensure their volunteer programs are meeting the needs of residents, volunteers and staff.
- Mobile Immersion Tour Training for Nursing Facility Volunteers*: Provides volunteers with a mobile immersive, self-guided orientation of a long-term care facility. This training covers important rules and requirements like resident safety, privacy and quality-of-life requirements.
- Volunteer Managers Training*: Training for facility staff about volunteer program development and outreach strategies. To access the training, visit the Texas HHS Learning Portal, create an account or log in, and search for “Long-Term Caring Guide for Nursing Facility Volunteer Managers.
- Virtual Volunteer Toolkit for Activity Directors*: Provides volunteer managers with simple steps to form and solidify facility virtual programs.
Welcome volunteers into your long-term care facility. Get started, go to the Aging Well Resources Order Form and choose "volunteerism" under category.
*Note: The foundation for this resource was developed with Civil Monetary Penalty funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.