How retirement communities benefit from built-in “social circles”

As health and safety restrictions surrounding COVID-19 ease around the country, many Canadians are beginning to enjoy “social circles” or “social bubbles.” Social circles are people you can hug and touch, or those who can become part of your daily and weekly routines without distancing. Depending on provincial guidelines, these circles let people from different households get together in small groups of family and friends.

At Chartwell, residents practice safe social circles and follow guidance from public health or other enhanced safety protocols. In a broader sense, seniors who live in retirement residences have always enjoyed built-in versions of social circles due to the community setting. Even during quarantine situations, retirement residences function like small, tight-knit communities, where residents and staff offer support, friendship, and a sense of purpose in addition to practicing enhanced safety and infection protocols.

Built in social opportunities—or circles of friends and staff—are critical to the health of older adults. Now more than ever, scientists and health care professionals acknowledge the positive effects on physical, mental and emotional health for seniors who regularly socialize with family and friends.*

Here are some of the benefits of a belonging to a community of peers and staff:

  1. Friends are next door, down the hall or one floor away. Knowing that you can see—if even from two or more metres away—and speak to friends without leaving the safety of your residence provides comfort and reassurance.

  2. Preventing the transmission of COVID-19 has brought many seniors’ communities closer. Residents and staff have recognized their collective responsibility in keeping everyone safe and healthy. There are many stories of seniors actively reaching out to fellow residents who are struggling in these difficult times, providing peer-to-peer support. Residents and staff feel a sense of solidarity, purpose and compassion so that no one feels alone.

  3. Residents can still enjoy some—and, as time goes on, more—activities without leaving their home. Seniors often choose to live in a retirement residence because of the numerous activities available to them. Being able to enjoy gardening, a physically-distanced book club or a walk around safe and protected grounds in the company of friends is what makes life satisfying and enjoyable, as well as helps individuals cope with uncertain times.

  4. Even activities conducted within a resident’s suite can still foster a sense of belonging and participation, as residence staff find creative ways for seniors to stay connected and have fun. Written trivia competitions, jokes of the day delivered to each suite, and mobile “Happy Hour” carts travelling the hallways are all ways residents can feel connected and supported within their home.

  5. Dining together in a seniors’ residence—even a physical distancing dining experience—provides another opportunity for residents to socialize. Research studies show the positive benefits of eating with others include better physical and mental health, as well as seniors becoming more socially active.*

 

The following sources are references for this blog in order of appearance:

1. National Seniors Council. “Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors Consultation Highlights 2013-14.” (Date modified: 2016-07-20), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/national-seniors-council/programs/publications-reports/2014/social-isolation-seniors/page05.html

2. Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship. “Seniors and social dining: A brief summary.” (2014), online: https://atrium.lib.uoguelph.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10214/9056/Stehouwer_SeniorsSocialDining_2014.pdf?sequence=4