The Importance of Social Connection in Older Adults
As one ages, keeping the social connections necessary to find happiness and fight isolation gets more challenging. Research has shown that loneliness can be as damaging to the health as smoking or obesity. Luckily, solutions are at hand.
“After my husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack, I found myself facing a future alone. Depression hit me so deeply, there were days I couldn’t go anywhere, do anything. I hardly left the house. My life looks very different today.”
Those are the words of Rose Usher, a PACE Berkeley participant of two years. Her interest in the PACE program was sparked after she received a brochure in her mailbox. Designed to support those 55 and older age safely in their home, PACE combines healthcare services, meals, transportation, therapy, and socialization needs. Looking this over, Rose decided to give PACE a try.
The Mind Body Connection
In the beginning, Rose admits that she just wanted to “get out of the house” and that being picked up and riding the van was enjoyable because she had a view of the marina en route to the PACE center. Since Rose uses assisted mobility devices, it was easy for her to feel at home at PACE Berkeley which is specifically designed for safe movement, independence and socializing.
Rose attends physical therapy at the rehab center gym a week, to work on her gross motor skills. The fine motor skills required for her arts projects keep her hands busy and her mind engaged. Soon, PACE Berkeley was Rose’s second home.
Friendships are just as important in older adult life as it is in other life stages. Rose shared that she did not have many friends when she started attending the center and preferred to keep to herself.
Activities Coordinator Mona Leones shares, "Rose really loves arts and crafts. It wasn't long before she suggested her own projects and led other seniors in small groups. We now have a little arts and crafts display table, which Rose helps organize and coordinate." Mona supported Rose's initiative and volunteerism by providing the materials and time slots for other seniors to work on projects.
Engagement and Purpose
Rose says that she has found engagement and purpose at the center, helping others, and she feels more inspired to keep active. "I love being creative and want to utilize my skills. The projects often end up as decorations in my home, and I love that I'm making things of beauty that are useful and can be appreciated. I love being busy!"
Helping older adults get and stay meaningfully engaged is critical for their health and the health of our communities. Today, Rose admits she feels more connected with her children and seven grandchildren and shares her enthusiasm about her latest projects. She is especially close to her 21-year-old granddaughter and they keep in touch via texting and FaceTime.