By Amy Osmond Cook
Do you remember that one house in the neighborhood -- the house that attracted all of the kids after school and during the summer? It was the house where kids could do crafts, snacks were plentiful, and everyone felt welcome.
Regardless of your age, the desire for companionship and belonging is something that never fades. Whether you are eight or 85, those factors remain an important part of life. As part of the healthcare community, there are things you can do to develop cool neighbors within your facility and beyond. Here’s how:
1. Create opportunities for companionship:
The need for friendship is a lifelong requirement, and it is an important component of good health. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that senior women who pursued and sustained healthy social networks reduced the risk of dementia and delayed or prevented cognitive impairment.
Sometimes, the social skills that were once second nature to us get a little rusty due to lack of use. We all could use another friend in our lives. People can help facilitate environments where social interaction occurs and friendships are formed.
At Lincoln Court Retirement Community in Idaho Falls, Idaho, the duty of the annually nominated Miss Lincoln Court is to create a social cohesiveness among residents. As an honorary staff member, she offers tours to new residents and makes sure they are introduced to other members of the community. She also helps plan events and activities that appeal to the residents. When she needs extra help, the first attendant steps up to lend her a hand. When someone needs a friend, Miss Lincoln Court is there to remind them how important they are to this social community.
2. Reinforce the truth that everyone matters:
With aging comes a belief that life is filled with limitations. With retirement and physical ailments often affecting our independence, it’s important for older adults to share their interests or abilities with a group of friends and reinforce that they matter.
In the 2005 edition of The Gerontologist, Dr. Orit Nuttman Schwartz wrote, “Since many people possess energy, vitality, and untested creativity at the time of their retirement, they continue to shoulder a conscious or unconscious need to matter to others. Their life is not over, and it is not enough for them to simply know that their life used to be worthwhile. It is paramount to their health that their life feels meaningful in this later stage.”
Arroyo Vista is a skilled nursing facility with a unique program to reinforce this truth. “At Arroyo Vista, we pair residents up with those who have the same interests, likes and dislikes, and similar histories,” said Pamela Fernandez, an LPN at Arroyo Vista Nursing Center. “This program has helped older adults build strong friendships. I just wish they did that for us in college!”
Do you know someone who plays an instrument? Perhaps your neighbor makes a mean pot of Chili Verde or has a natural talent at organizing NCAA basketball tournament brackets. By reminding people that each of us adds a special element to the community, you are helping to develop a beautiful culture that supports each individual.
3. Support and exercise independence:
If you want to secure your title as the coolest neighbor on the block, start activities that inspire creativity and empower others. Try hosting a Wii bowling tournament or going to a movie. Perhaps you could arrange to enjoy a concert in the park or start a walking club at the mall. By talking with your social group and learning more of their hobbies and life experiences, you can take the lead in suggesting more pertinent ideas for activities that people will enjoy.
Growing older can be an exciting new chapter in a person’s life, and you can celebrate through positive experiences. People are drawn to the friendly, energetic vibe of an individual that fosters companionships, celebrates individuality, and encourages independence. Are you the coolest house on the block?