By Jackie Waters,

Socialization is very important for senior loved ones, as it helps to keep the mind, body, and spirit engaged. Many senior adults tend to pull away from social activities as they age, as those activities often begin to feel like too much of an effort to tackle. However, staying engaged provides significant health benefits that make the effort well worth it. As a caregiver there are some simple ways that you can help your loved one socialize.

Keeping seniors connected socially provides important health benefits

Social interaction has numerous benefits for seniors and it’s critical that caregivers do their best to facilitate these opportunities. Independa points out that socializing can reduce the risks of issues such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and even conditions such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Getting socially engaged as a senior can take on many forms. For some people, volunteering at a local school, hospital, or other community organization can provide much-needed social contact. Retired Brains suggests connecting with a local animal sanctuary or community Ronald McDonald House, and there are many charities that would love to have seniors volunteering with them as well.

Senior centers can provide a wealth of opportunities for social activities

Senior centers can be valuable resources that provide a variety of socialization activities for your older family member. There may be card games, dancing lessons, classes and workshops, entertainment, and even field trips — there is something to fit every personality. These centers can also be a great resource for finding other activities in your community like walking clubs or other social gathering opportunities. You can find local senior centers through the Hillsborough County website.

Many seniors are limited in their ability to get out and about, but they love the chance to attend craft shows, local performances, or head to the library. Libraries and local community education programs will often put together book clubs, classes, workshops or trips that can be quite enjoyable for seniors anxious to connect with others. In addition, local fitness organizations often provide activities targeted toward seniors and they also may offer discounts for older adults. Check out the Silver Sneakers program, which offers seniors access to numerous gyms in the Tampa area.

Seniors don’t have to rely on a center to be active and engaged within the community, either. Social media makes it easy for older Americans to connect with people in their own neighborhoods. and even Facebook’s many community oriented pages can help seniors find like-minded folks nearby to share a game of cards, a walk around the local park, or an afternoon crafting.

Help your senior continue to pursue their hobbies and passions

Sometimes as family members age, they think that they need to let go of some of their favorite activities or hobbies. Whenever possible, it is important to keep these available, or provide the chance to develop some new passions. Whatever types of activities older adults enjoy can often be found in a setting that is senior-friendly.

The AARP suggests that getting a dog is a great possibility to consider for seniors looking to be more active and social. Pets can be great conversation starters, and dog walking is an activity that gives seniors both much-needed exercise and a chance to socially connect with other people. If your senior is unable to have a pet of their own, dog walking or volunteering at a local shelter can be a fabulous way to get out and make some new friends of both the human and animal variety. If transportation to and from the shelter is an issue, he or she may be able to open up their home as a foster for homeless pets. It’s a win/win: the pet gets a safe place to sleep, eat, and socialize and the senior gets a revolving door of new companions to love.

It is not uncommon for older adults to start to withdraw as they age and their lifestyles begin to change. Caregivers can help to prevent their loved one from getting too isolated by helping them find opportunities to try new activities that will keep them active and social. Local senior centers or fitness organizations may do the trick, or something as simple as connecting with pet owners or shelters to volunteer or do some dog walking might be just what your senior needs in order to stay engaged and connected.