Most older adults prefer to age in the comfort of their homes, but one of the biggest challenges they face is feeling lonely and isolated.
Families can help alleviate that, but you can also enlist the help of a "friendly visitor" program to fill in the gaps between visits.
These programs exist in communities across the country: Volunteers get matched up with older adults and provide companionship, emotional support and information about local resources.
A volunteer typically spends an hour or two a week socializing with an older adult. Depending on the older person's interests and needs, the volunteer might do anything from reading books aloud and listening to music to going for a walk or playing a board game.
To find a friendly visitor program in your community, contact the local area agency on aging. If no program exists, you might contact your loved one's place of worship to find out if it can send a volunteer on a regular basis. Or ask friends and neighbors to take turns visiting with your loved one.
Older people benefit in many ways from relationships they form with new friends. A strong social support network can reduce stress, foster independence and increase feelings of self-worth. All of that can add up to a longer — and happier — life.
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