Staying Connected

Staying Connected

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Socializing is one of the primary ways that we stay both physically and emotionally well as we age. Social isolation can also lead to detrimental health effects including increased risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke and depression. Strengthening social connections can help older adults to achieve emotional wellness and diminish risk of mental illness.


Seniors face many challenges to sustaining social relationships. When we are not in the midst of a global pandemic, you may enjoy visiting family or meeting a friend for coffee. However, older adults may experience difficulty accessing the community due to difficulty with ambulation, driving or navigating public transportation. Aging adults may be less likely to attempt community mobility due to fear of falling or unknown factors such as accessibility of a private home or business.

When we aren’t able to visit in person, many of us are utilizing technology to stay in touch. We’re using social media networks and video conferencing platforms to connect with our loved ones. Technology may not be an option for all aging adults. Learning new technology such as a smart phone or a tablet can be a daunting task for anyone! If you or a loved one is having difficulty navigating a smart phone or a tablet, there are great alternatives including the GrandPad, Portal from Facebook and the Amazon Echo Show.


In addition to difficulties with learning new technology, aging adults may experience hearing loss. It’s estimated that nearly half of older adults experience difficulty with hearing. Phone and technology use become increasingly more difficult with hearing loss, potentially contributing to social isolation. In fact, research has shown untreated hearing loss is linked to greater rates of depression and social isolation. Those with hearing loss may benefit from adaptive equipment like the CapTel. The CapTel functions like the typical landline and offers real time captions for the user to read.


We recently hosted Telecommunications Access Iowa (TAI) and Hamilton Relay as part of our Free Webinar Series to learn more about programming in Iowa. As part of the Iowa Utilities Board, TAI offers programs to help provide free or low-cost equipment to Iowa residents experiencing hearing loss of speech difficulties. For instance, an older adult residing in Iowa may qualify for a free CapTel (provided by TAI) with the captioning service provided by Hamilton Relay. With the availability of equipment, older adults are better able to interact with friends and family. For more information on the voucher program, find downloadable resources here.


If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulties with daily activities, such as connecting with others, find an occupational therapist (OT). An OT can help to identify an individual’s skills and recommend adaptive equipment to help improve independence.  Frequently, occupational therapy is covered by Medicare and other major insurances. Contact your insurance provider and your preferred clinic to verify your benefits.