One in four older Australians experiences loneliness and depression. This is particularly true for seniors residing in a retirement community. They feel detached from their loved ones and experience feelings of worthlessness — right when they need care and attention more than ever.
These feelings not only make their last days gloomy and dark but also contribute to the deterioration of their health. That’s because emotional stress can trigger health issues.
To help you prevent this from happening to your loved ones, we have compiled five easy ways to stay connected with them as they adjust to a retirement community.
Call them often
If your loved one has recently moved to a retirement community, it is a good idea to call them every day — for at least 2-3 weeks. The idea is to let them know that you’re thinking about them and still care for them.
In case your elderly family member is too attached to you or your kids, you might want to ring them twice a day, preferably early in the morning and evening. In this way, they can have a smooth transition into their new life without having to face feelings of loneliness or feel that they were a burden for you.
Over time, you can reduce the frequency of your calls, so they have more headspace to explore their new surroundings and lifestyle. Consider settling for a once-a-week call.
Now, what should you talk about when you call your loved one? Here are a few things you must include in your conversation:
- Feelings and health: Ask them how they are feeling and how their health is coming along. If there are any serious concerns, you might want to get in touch with the caregivers at the retirement community or plan an immediate visit.
- Day activity: Inquire about their day. Look for the parts they enjoyed the most. This helps reinforce the positivity in their new life. Also, inquire if anything’s bothering them. Take immediate action if they report mistreatment or neglect.
- Upcoming events: Good retirement communities like the Living Choice retirement village regularly arrange engaging events for the elderly. So, inquire what activities or events are coming up and if there’s anything they’re particularly excited about. It also gives you something to follow up on your next call.
- Updates about your life: Always share bits about your life. Whether it’s a career achievement or how your attempt at a new dish was a total fail, make sure you mention it. It makes them feel included and remembered.
Plan in-person weekly or bi-weekly visits
Calls are not a substitute for physical presence. So, make sure you visit your family in a retirement community at least 2 – 4 times per month.
Most retirement communities already have days scheduled for family visits, and they’ll let you know about the visiting hours. If the management leaves it to your choice, discuss it with your immediate family (kids and spouse) as well as the elderly member residing in the retirement community. Settle for a day that’s convenient for all.
If you cannot take your kids and spouse to every visit, make sure they accompany you at every other visit. This is because it helps build family bonds and strengthen intergenerational connection.
Plus, children often bring a sense of joy and energy wherever they go. This can be uplifting for the elderly and bring about an opportunity to create long-lasting memories. It also instils the importance of compassion, empathy, and care in children.
Plan something big on long weekends & holidays
Take your elderly family member somewhere interesting on long weekends and holidays. Explore new places with them or engage in fun-filled activities. This also gives you a chance to spend more time with them than usual.
Here are a few ideas of what you can do:
- Take them to a restaurant: Make sure you’ve tried this restaurant earlier and you are sure it aligns with their taste. Here’s a list of the best family restaurants in Australia.
- Go on a shopping spree: Take them to their favourite outlets or interesting shopping places where they can buy clothes, decor, gifts, cute things, or anything else they like.
- Watch movies together: Select a family holiday movie, get some popcorn and snacks, and enjoy a family movie night with your elderly. You can even take them to the theatre if they’re comfortable.
- Throw a holiday party: Choose a theme of your liking and arrange a holiday party in your backyard. Make sure you invite friends and relatives to make the experience wholesome for them. It’s also a good idea to plan some games that involve everyone.
Send them thoughtful gifts
It’s also a good idea to send a surprise gift package to your elderly family member every once in a while. It will make them feel loved and show that you truly care about them.
Here’s a list of gift ideas for the elderly:
- A magazine subscription
- A delicious meal or snack baskets
- Plants or flowers
- Handmade cards from their grandkids & family
- Photo books
- Fitness gift items like yoga mats, stretch bands, etc.
- Entertainment tech gifts like e-readers, wireless headphones, etc.
Schedule visits from friends and extended family members
Meeting friends and extended family members help retirees recall memories of their youth. It helps them keep in touch with their journey and how they have evolved as a person.
So, we recommend setting up visits where you take your elderly family member’s friends as well as your extended family members to the retirement village and let them enjoy some time together. Alternatively, you can set up these visits outside the retirement community if everyone is comfortable.
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