Social Isolation in Seniors

Ask the Experts by Kris Scarfone and Kristin Whitney

Q: With summer upon us I feel as though my mother needs to get out of the house more often and possibly go on a vacation. She seems to staying home more, putting off dinner invitations and saying "no" to social engagements. What can I do to help?

A: Identify reasons why your mother may be isolating herself and commit to encouraging and helping her get out of the house to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Schedule an appointment with your mother's primary physician to discuss your concerns.

Stay at your mother's home for a few days. Get to know her social world and daily habits. See what might be happening at home that makes her feel as though she doesn't want to be out and about. Consider arranging a family meeting with all of the siblings to discuss ways in which everyone can be involved in participating in her social life.

  • Is your mother safe and sound in her home? Older people generally hide their vulnerabilities fearing that others may curb their independence.
  • Is she eating? Seniors lose taste buds and crave highly salted and seasoned foods sometimes contributing to dehydration and other bodily dysfunctions. Make sure she's eating nutritional meals and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Has she had a recent hospital stay? The natural inclination after a hospital stay or fall is to pull back and remain inside our comfort zone, but life without the thrill of anything new can become boring and slowly begin to close in.

It's important to push ourselves out, plunge into life and reawaken the spirit and render the world fresh again. It could be as simple as a drive for a change in scenery or an outing to the park or an ice cream cone. If she's feeling up to it, an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast close to home.

The most important thing to remember is to develop a plan as a family. Involve everyone including your mother. Establish a goal and find meaning and purpose in your mother's life as she transitions into her next phase. Encourage independence and always remember to keep her dignity intact.

Kris Scarfone and Kristin Whitney own K&K Eldercare Concierge in Grosse Pointe. As Professional Geriatric Care Managers, Aging Life Care Association, they offer expertise and support in navigating health care choices and other needs for older adults. They can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . K&K Eldercare is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.

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