Getting together with other seniors who share similar interests is one of the best ways to ensure the well-being of the elderly. Support groups allow seniors to share experiences and advice with people who understand them. They make dealing with a health condition and isolation easier to manage.
Here is everything you need to know about the importance of community support and different types of senior support groups you can join.
Why Is Community Support Important?
Over 1.2 million New York City residents are over the age of 65 and statistics show that almost one-third of them feel isolated and lonely.
Isolation is proven to have a negative impact on the emotional and physical well-being of the elderly. Isolated seniors are more likely to experience cognitive decline, depression, and suffer from high blood pressure and other health issues. And that’s not all. Social isolation is found to increase the mortality rate of seniors by almost 30 percent.
Community-based support groups for seniors allow the elderly to get out of the house more often, pursue a more active lifestyle, and spend time with like-minded individuals. Socializing with others and participating in activities together helps cultivate new friendships and create lasting bonds.
Senior groups provide not only valuable connections but also emotional and moral support. Their non-judgmental environment makes it easier to process inevitable changes and loss, as well as to share frustrations and victories when dealing with difficult situations.
Benefits of Community Support Groups
Community support can make a huge difference in the health and general well-being of the elderly. Here are some of the advantages of joining senior support groups:
Help reduce stress and anxiety
Seniors who feel a strong connection to their peers experience lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Shared conversations on a topic of mutual interest help boost your immune system and achieve better overall health. What’s more, socializing with others promotes a more active lifestyle which in turn helps prevent disease.
Provide a sense of purpose
The friendships and social connections you make through senior support groups will make you feel more engaged in your own life, and give you vigor and enthusiasm. Participating in support groups will also allow you to form deep bonds beyond your own family. They will give you a sense of purpose as you share your experiences and help others with your advice. You will feel needed, loved, and appreciated.
Give a sense of belonging
Isolated seniors may find it extremely difficult to deal with changes and new challenges they have to face. Meeting other people who are experiencing similar difficulties creates a strong sense of belonging and makes coping with hard situations easier. The more specific the support group is to your condition or interests, the easier it will be to bond with other members and form meaningful relationships.
Boost mental health
Studies show that social isolation is one of the primary causes of depression in seniors. Loneliness can quickly turn into feelings of worthlessness and despair. That is why social interactions are so important. Community-based senior groups provide an invaluable opportunity to engage in stimulating activities and conversations. They will help you manage negative thoughts and have a significant impact on your mental health.
Improve cognitive functioning
Socialization is one of the keys to keeping your brain sharp longer. Frequent social activities within organized groups have been found to decrease the risk of cognitive decline in seniors. When you have an active social life, you can continue to actively observe, learn, and respond to the world around you. Besides, taking part in various senior groups can also lower the risk of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Help obtain practical advice
Community-based senior groups offer not only emotional support but also useful and relevant information and advice. Members of disease-specific groups may be invited to share their experiences when it comes to treatments, medication, and alternatives. They will help you gain a better understanding of your condition and what you are going through.
Exchanging information about positive outcomes can inspire others to take a more active role in their own care and consider new treatment options. Support groups are also a place where you will get useful tips on how to cope with or overcome challenges you are facing on your path to recovery.
Connecting with others is a great source of motivation and inspiration. If you are moving toward a common goal of overcoming the obstacles of an illness, members of your support group can give you hope and confidence that you will succeed. Because you share similar experiences, they will be able to perfectly understand your situation. They will encourage you as you cope with a health condition and offer support along the way.
Provide emotional support
Participating in senior support groups can serve as an outlet for feelings that your friends and family who are not dealing with the same situation may not truly understand. The support group members who have the same fears and frustrations as you will provide you with invaluable emotional support without any judgment.
Types of Senior Support Groups
The choice of senior support groups can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of groups across the city, both the ones that focus on a particular health condition or interest and more general groups for seniors.
Senior support groups fall into one of the following categories:
- Professionally operated senior support groups. These groups are, as their name says, led by professionals with clinical experience in treating specific illnesses. Professionally operated groups are usually affiliated with or operating within professional organizations such as hospitals.
- Self-help senior support groups. Instead of a professional, a self-help group is run by either one of the group members or a volunteer. This is often someone who has previously experienced the same health issues and other challenges as the group members.
- Online senior support groups. Online groups can take place through forums, chat rooms, or social media such as Twitter or Facebook. In spite of their lack of face-to-face interactions, these groups are convenient because you can join them at any time from the comfort of your home. Online groups are a great option if you have limited mobility and are unable to travel to meetings. Make sure, however, to check the integrity and confidentiality of the website and the group before you decide to disclose any personal information.
- Telephone senior support groups. Members of telephone support groups dial into a common phone line, similar to a conference call, to talk to others and share their experiences. This is a way to easily make connections without having to leave the house or to know how to use social media.
While some senior support groups are structured and have specific goals and agendas for each meeting, others are more informal and focused on social connections and shared experiences.
Many senior groups are completely free, but some do charge a small fee. In some cases, your health insurance may cover the fees for taking part in a support group.
Questions to Ask Before Joining a Senior Support Group
The support group type that works best for you will depend on your health condition, your location, and your personal interests. Whatever your preferences, you should start by asking the following questions before you decide to join a group:
- How long has the group been together?
- What is the size of the group?
- How often does the group meet?
- What is the typical duration of a meeting?
- Who can attend the group meetings?
- Is the group only for seniors?
- Can family members join the meetings?
- Who leads the support group?
- Is the group leader a professional?
- Are the meetings structured?
- What is the purpose of the meetings?
- What are the meeting expectations?
- Are participants only sharing feelings and experiences?
- Are participants expected to offer advice and tips?
- Is it possible to just listen without participating?
New York Senior Support Groups
New York has no shortage of community support groups for seniors regardless of their age, health condition, and particular needs. While some support groups focus on a specific condition or situation, others connect seniors who share similar interests.
Grief support groups
Adjusting to a life without a spouse is a significant transition and a major challenge for seniors that takes a lot of time and patience to overcome. Grief groups for seniors facing loss are a good supplement to the support provided by family and friends.
Heart disease support groups
If you suffer from heart disease, taking part in a support group can be beneficial for your recovery. A support group is a safe environment where you can discuss your fears, struggles, and accomplishments, and at the same time obtain useful information about your condition.
Addiction recovery support groups
Isolated seniors are at higher risk for addiction. After you have received appropriate treatment, a recovery group will help you remain strong and hopeful while moving forward. Addiction support groups can recommend techniques and activities you can try to stay focused post-treatment. Besides, you will be sure to have support from other members if you experience setbacks.
- Inter-Group Association of A.A. New York
- American Lung Association Support Groups
- Obesity Action Coalition New York Support Groups
Cancer support groups
Joining a senior cancer support group will help you feel less alone in dealing with your illness. It will give you a chance to work through your feelings together with other seniors who have experienced the same challenges.
Some cancer support groups for seniors focus on living with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They allow you to discuss the unique difficulties of living with a cancer diagnosis and get the necessary information and guidance. Many cancer support groups are open to both survivors, their family members, and caregivers.
- American Cancer Society Support Groups
- CancerCare Support Groups
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Support Groups
Vision and hearing loss support groups
Coming to terms with vision or hearing loss, or both, can be a frightening and overwhelming experience for seniors. You may largely benefit from participating in a support group that will help you manage progressive hearing or vision loss and make you feel less isolated and alone.
- Center for Hearing and Communication
- VISIONS Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Seniors
- LiveOnNY Virtual Programming for Blind and Visually Impaired Seniors
Depression and mental illness support groups
Although mood disorders are often under-diagnosed, they are common among the elderly and can easily impair your ability to function socially. You can join a depression and mental illness support group whether you have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression yourself or if you are a family member of a senior suffering from a disorder. Support groups offer information, encouragement, and the motivation to come out of isolation and sustain a meaningful recovery.
Alzheimer’s disease support groups
Support groups for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease allow you to address the emotions that accompany the diagnosis, provide more information about current research, and offer recommendations for adequate activities and therapies. Alzheimer’s disease support groups give the possibility to both seniors and their caregivers to discuss their feelings with other members who understand what they are going through.
- Alzheimer’s Association Support Groups
- CaringKind NYC Alzheimer Support Groups
- New York Memory Center Family Resources Program
Board game groups for seniors
From improving reflection and memory to increasing social engagement, board games have great therapeutic potential for the elderly. What’s more, playing memory games like bingo has been proven to combat mental illness and memory loss diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Many senior centers and other venues across the city offer various board game groups that you may want to join.
Art groups for seniors
Taking part in an art group for seniors has numerous benefits. Besides giving you the opportunity to meet other people with the same interests, it can improve your cognitive and sensory-motor functions, boost your self-esteem and your mood. Participating in art groups can also be a useful and fulfilling activity for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases.
- NYC-ARTS Cultural Groups for Seniors
- DOROT Legacy Arts Workshops for Seniors
- Selfhelp Virtual Senior Center for Homebound Seniors
Fitness groups for seniors
Depending on your mobility, you may be able to attend groups that focus on physical exercise for older adults. Alternatively, you can join a group of seniors who take short, leisurely walks in your area, or one that focuses on doing simple stretching or tai chi. Participating in fitness groups for seniors will give you an added motivation to stay active, and ultimately help you live a longer and healthier life.
- YMCA NYC Senior Fitness Classes
- CityParks Foundation Senior Fitness Groups
- Silver Sneakers Senior Classes and Workshops
Other ways to find relevant senior support groups
- Ask your treating physician or local hospital center about disease-specific support programs and groups for seniors near you.
- Ask other patients who have successfully participated in support groups for recommendations.
- Ask your social worker to suggest a suitable support group that caters to seniors.
- A church or another religious organization can be a great source of information about senior support groups.
- Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and independent living communities often host various support and activity groups that are open to non-residents.
- Senior centers and clubs across the city have support groups, regular meetings, events, and classes for the elderly.
- Many public libraries organize senior groups and workshops around particular topics.
- For tech-savvy seniors, Facebook senior support groups are an easy way to connect to like-minded people from around the country and the globe. Make sure to always check the group’s privacy settings before joining. Some groups are closed and only people allowed by the moderator can see what you post. Others are open, which means anyone can see the information that you share.
- Start your own support group. Reach out to others who have experienced the same health issues or challenges as you and start building a personal support team.