Attribution: Edward Hopper [Public domain] – Nighthawks, 1942. From: The Art Institute of Chicago

Our world tends to contract as we age, I saw this characteristic in both my mom and my dad as I aged through my thirties and into my forties. For my dad, the cause was an early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, robbing him of his cognitive abilities and ending his ability to live independently. For my mom, the process was more gradual and the result of mobility issues, being estranged from hobbies and interests that had engaged her in her younger years, and being disconnected from family and friends as she moved from her house to a senior care facility. She became less interested in traveling, preferring her far-flung family to visit her.

The health impact of isolation on aging adults is well-documented, showing that isolated seniors have an increased risk of the following serious health issues:

  • high blood pressure,
  • depression,
  • dementia.

While there are numerous methods to address the issue of isolation in aging adults, my focus is on how LifeShare can play a significant role as a resource for seniors, family members, and senior care providers by expanding the world of the aging adult.

Rather than speaking in the abstract, I’d like to share some personal experiences using LifeShare with aging adults. Meet Elizabeth, who is 76 and living by herself in an assisted living wing of a continuing care retirement community in Williamsburg, Virginia. She has 4 children, a daughter who lives in Williamsburg, a son who lives in Campbell, California, a daughter who lives in St. Paul Minnesota, and a son who lives in Orlando, Florida. (Note: Elizabeth is an amalgam of actual observations of how I’ve seen LifeShare used.)

Expanding Elizabeth’s world through family connections:

Elizabeth receives messages from her family on her television set. She navigates the messages with a remote control and can respond to her family with messages of her own. Just this week, Elizabeth received pictures of her new great-grandson, Cody. Her daughter also sent her an interesting YouTube video about the computer used in the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Elizabeth loves how her family is spontaneous sharing their lives with her. She was thrilled to see an ultrasound picture of her great-grandson when her granddaughter went to her first doctor’s appointment to confirm her pregnancy. She also loved the video of her great-granddaughter’s soccer game.

Elizabeth’s enjoys visits with her family, especially talking about the pictures she’s received from them. When they visit, her great-grandchildren enjoy playing some of the games on LifeShare and Elizabeth enjoys watching them play.

Expanding Elizabeth’s world through lifelong learning opportunities:

Elizabeth has found a number of interesting topics to learn about offered through LifeShare. She enjoys listening to the Sunday at the Memories podcast, a nostalgic look at music and cultural icons of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This month the Sunday at the Memories podcast is highlighting music by the Four Tops and Doris Day and trivia about the Mickey Mouse Club.

Elizabeth is in the process of listening to a 4 part educational series called, “Embracing Wisdom,” by Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen.

Elizabeth enjoys exercising her problem solving skills with games like Chess, Reversi, and Sudoku. With different skills levels for each game, Elizabeth feels challenged but not overmatched.

Expanding Elizabeth’s world through local connections and participation:

Elizabeth participates in a number of activities that her care facility offers. She knows the daily schedule by looking at the Activity Schedule on LifeShare in her room. Elizabeth receives reminders from the campus staff, on her telephone, about interesting activities in which she is interested in participating. Today she was reminded to attend the Watercolors arts and crafts activity at 3:00 pm.

Elizabeth loves sharing pictures and family news with her neighboring friends. Her 4 children are living in various parts of the US and with grandchildren and now great-grandchildren, there is always something going on.

LifeShare can be an effective tool for addressing isolation and encouraging engagement, both in a facility setting or for seniors aging in place. The LifeShare service helps seniors keep expanding their world through:

  • Maintaining connections with family,
  • Lifelong learning opportunities,
  • Engagement and participation in their local environment.

Further Reading: Here are some interesting articles on the subject of isolation in aging adults: