The Importance of Socialization

By Lois R. Arsenault M.Ed.
Human Beings are Social Animals.
True, each of us has different needs and tolerances when it comes to interactions with other people. The consummate extrovert, will desire, even need to be around people. The classic introvert does not necessarily exist as a hermit but usually finds a great deal of enjoyment from solitude or interactions taking place in small group settings. Most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum between extroverted and introverted.

The Value of Socialization
Studies have been conducted which proved the value of socialization in our lives. Meaningful social engagement contributes to a healthier and happier life experience well into very old age. Isolation can lead to depression, loneliness, and more rapid deterioration of chronic health conditions. Our frail older adult care recipients do not lose their need for peer interaction as their health needs change.

Engagement With Family is Not Enough
I’m sorry to report that family caregivers and younger family members do not have the capacity to fully and effectively fulfill the need for meaningful interaction with one’s peer group. Being with people of all ages and from many different walks of life is enjoyable and stimulating to be sure. Being with people of similar backgrounds and traditions, people with whom we share life experiences, is comforting and validating to a frail older adult.

Adult Day Centers Offer A Great Option
Opportunities for frail older adults to experience meaningful interaction with peers are available and not difficult to access though access often requires some support from their family/community caregivers. If the individual participated in religious observations throughout his or her life, the ability to continue those activities at whatever level possible can greatly contribute to their quality of life experience. Another great option to consider is Adult Day Center services once a traditional senior center is no longer meeting the need. A frail older adult can find friendship and enjoyable activities in spending their day with people of their own age group and life experience.

I urge all caregivers to support their care recipients in finding an outlet through which social needs can be met. The other side of that coin is the benefit of respite the caregiver experiences while their care recipient is having fun doing his/her own thing with a like peer group.