Social isolation can be especially difficult for older men. Those who live in senior living communities may be unable to have in-person visits as the community protects its vulnerable residents or patients. Those who live alone with health challenges may find it hard to access the supplies and services they need, and many have had little contact with others for weeks and even months.
This is true of women as well, but research shows men can be especially vulnerable to social isolation. Many men have relied upon their wives to serve as social coordinators and to keep in touch with family and friends. So if they have lost their spouse, they may lose their social network as well.
And many men have traditionally found their social context in the workplace. As soon as they collect the gold watch, they can quickly feel isolated. Even if after retirement they move to their dream community—that condo by the golf course, or closer to the kids—it can be hard to rebuild robust social connections.
A recent study from Michigan State University also found that traditional attitudes held by many older men can stand in the way of good health in their later years. “The belief that ‘real men’ must be strong, tough and independent may be a detriment to their social needs later in life,” the authors said, adding that older men who hold these ideals can become “siloed off.”
So check up on Dad as often as you can during these unusual days. Remind him that even during a pandemic, he should ask his doctor about healthy steps to take, such as:
Health screenings recommended for men, which might include:
Immunizations recommended for older adults:
Annual flu vaccine
A good exercise regimen for seniors, which includes:
A healthy diet as recommended by the doctor, which might include:
Then, ask how you can help! There are plenty of resources available for Dad, whether he lives independently or in a senior living community. These kinds of conversations let him know how much you care about him.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your loved one’s healthcare provider, who should be consulted about health care and healthy living.