One of the best ways to encourage social engagement is for the person in your care to participate in activities that they enjoy. Being socially engaged is not about the number of activities or number of people. What matters most is the quality of meaningful activity and social connections made.
Some people may enjoy spending time with one other person. Social activities with one other person may include:
- sharing old memories
- discussing current news
- going shopping
Some people may enjoy spending their time with many people. Social activities with many other people may include:
- dining clubs
- participating in a weekly card game
To help someone increase their social engagement, it is best to match the activity to the person’s preferences.
The following ideas may help you think creatively about social engagement:
- Ask the Person
- Start with a conversation about what activities they enjoy and whose company they enjoy. How did they enjoy spending their time in the past? Did they prefer their alone time? Did they love large group gatherings? What activities did they find most enjoyable?
- Be Creative
Being creative does not mean grand gestures. In this case, being creative means considering where opportunities can be found for social engagement both inside and outside of the home. Examples include:
- running errands and daily chores together
- listening to music together
- looking through old photos or memory boxes and allowing the person to tell you what they are thinking about
- visiting a favourite bakery or restaurant and tasting favourite foods
Each visit is an opportunity for social engagement! Social engagement does not mean that there has to be a lot of talking. Listen and validate how someone is feeling. Allowing time for silence and reflection helps thoughts develop and the conversation build.
You can make a person feel that they matter by just being with them. Sitting and watching the birds with a person who enjoys that activity can make a big difference in their day. Ask open ended questions and see where the conversation goes. When a person only gives a one-word answers, try asking, “Tell me more about that”. You’ll be surprised how a conversation can grow when a person feels like you are open to it.
Even though they may want to, there are sometimes many reasons that a person cannot easily or independently get out of their house. Consider possible ways to address barriers yourself or with the help of community services. Possible barriers include:
- needing transportation or assistance with walking
- needing another person to be with them for safety reasons
- challenges with vision or hearing
- health issues that make outings challenging
Pause and Reflect
Write down one or two strategies in your Reflection Journal that you could use to increase social engagement that could be useful for you in your caregiving.