How retirement communities help seniors overcome pandemic isolation

Excerpt: Retirement living can help overcome the social isolation experienced by many older adults living on their own and aggravated during the pandemic, which can negatively affect their physical, emotional and mental health. Retirement communities offer built-in social opportunities to enjoy group outdoor activities safely, socialize when you eat, chat with friends next door or down the hall even if from a distance, and be supported by peers and staff.

The pandemic has aggravated the social isolation of many Canadian seniors living on their own in the community,* according to a Thunder Bay General Hospital geriatric specialist. While older adults are very resilient, social isolation and loneliness are associated with poorer outcomes in terms of physical health and daily functioning, mood and cognition.*

The pandemic measures needed to keep people safe have unfortunately resulted in a less active lifestyle and social under-stimulation for many seniors, which increases the risk of deconditioning,* the Government of Quebec reports. Complications that can occur with deconditioning include loss of muscle mass and strength, balance problems and increased risk of falls, memory loss, confusion, reduced cardiorespiratory capacity and more difficulty with the activities of daily living.*

Social communities help keep seniors healthy

Communities that facilitate social connections have a positive impact on mental and physical health, helping to maintain mobility and reducing the risks of disability and cognitive decline,* according to the University of California, Berkeley. Regular social stimulation and communication can help to prevent psychological, behavioural and cognitive deconditioning.* Social connection is also the strongest protective factor against depression among 100 factors considered,* reported a 2020 study in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Seniors can benefit from a retirement community’s safe, built-in social opportunities and connections in multiple ways:

  1. Enjoy outdoor activities together
    Outdoor group walks lowered depression and stress, and improved mental health and well-being, especially for people who recently experienced stressful life events,* reported a University of Michigan study.

  2. Socialize when you eat
    Dining with others in a retirement community— even at a physical distance—provides another opportunity to smile, chat and visit with other residents and staff. Older adults who dine with others enjoy better health, improve their nutritional intake and are more socially active,* according to a University of Guelph report.

  3. Live with friends
    When you live in a retirement community, you can easily and regularly see and speak with friends next door, down the hall or on another floor—even if from two metres away.

  4. Connect virtually face-to-face
    Video calls help older adults ease social isolation and keep socially engaged by interacting face-to-face with family and friends,* says University of Waterloo, and be virtually present for birthdays, graduations, wedding, and other important events. Retirement residence staff can help facilitate easy use of technology for video calls and other “in suite” social entertainment and games virtually.

  5. Give and receive support from peers
    Peer support can help socially isolated older adults improve physical health, lower depression and become more socially active,* advises Carleton University. Peer support, based on the concept that people are happiest when helping each other, has been shown to reduce depression and loneliness among seniors,* according to University of Ottawa.

  6. Connect and converse with care staff
    Social interactions and support provided by healthcare staff in retirement living settings reduces loneliness, social isolation, boredom and a sense of helplessness among residents,* reported a University of Sheffield study.

Learn more about the safe, social and supportive lifestyle at Chartwell retirement residences by visiting

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:
1. CBC News. “Social isolation, cognitive decline amid pandemic a concern for local seniors.” (2021), online:
2. Government of Quebec. “Preventing deconditioning in seniors during the pandemic.” (2021), online:
3. University of California, Berkeley. “How social connections keep seniors healthy.” (2021), online:
4. Science Daily. “Social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression.” (2020), online:
5. Government of Quebec. “Guidelines to prevent de-conditioning in seniors isolated in their living environment in the context of a pandemic.” (2020), online:
6. University of Michigan. “Group nature walks linked to improved mental health.” (2014), online:,and%20Edge%20Hill%20University%20in%20the%20United%20Kingdom.
7. University of Guelph. “Seniors and social dining: a brief summary.” (2014), online:
8. The Conversation. “Video chats can ease social isolation for older adults during coronavirus pandemic.” (2020), online:
9. Carleton University. “The power of peer support.” (2018), online:
10. Hospital News. “An innovative Canadian program helps reduce social isolation in residential care.” ( ), online:
11. University of Sheffield. “Interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older people: an integrative review.” (2018), online: