11 Apr Social Well-Being of Seniors
It’s all very well to provide good physical and mental care for very elderly seniors, but who’s paying attention to their social well-being? And what’s the role for active young seniors and their communities, where frail and marginalized seniors live?
No matter where an older adult lives, it seems to me that we as a society need to care not only about their bodies and minds, but also the social aspects of their being. No one should suffer boredom, loneliness, and helplessness, regardless of age or ability, and no matter where they live.
Achieving social well-being
I believe that any accommodation for seniors, including nursing homes as well as high-end and lower-cost residential accommodation, need to ensure their clients have a high quality of life filled with purpose and meaning. Communities, too, have a role to play in social well-being for seniors still living in their own home. For example,
– are seniors involved in the most decision-making possible?
– is the setting homelike in layout and design?
– can residents navigate safely in the setting and out in the community?
– does the layout readily enable social interaction and mutual support?
– are there other live beings including plants and animals (e.g. cats, dogs, birds, and children)?
– are there opportunities for residents to participate in life out in the community, and does the outside community visit and interact with residents?
– is there a wide range of social and recreational activities (not just cards, movies, and bingo)?
– what are the opportunities for life-long learning?
– are their opportunities, for those who are able, to participate in walking programs, indoors and out?
Embedding social care
I’d like to see a social well-being accreditation for institutions and seniors’ residences to incorporate and maintain a high standard of social care – not as an add-on service for a fee, but as a basic right and way of being. Regulation and public reporting on social outcomes could also help to shift attention towards greater quality of life for their residents.
A government department responsible for seniors might take on these roles.
There are also shining examples of nursing homes moving beyond their traditional focus, such as the Eden Alternative.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has created guides for age-friendly communities with principles that municipalities could incorporate.
Here in Nova Scotia, we have South Shore Helping Hands in Mahone Bay, where active young seniors are taking a lead in providing a social support network for more elderly seniors in the community who need a helping hand now and then.
In thinking about your own housing options, be sure to consider a range of factors that could impact your social well-being in the years ahead.
What do you think is needed, and who should be responsible, to have a high level of social well-being for seniors living in communities, nursing homes, and seniors’ residences? I’d love to hear your comments.