Spending social time and friends and family has been proven to promote senior health and longevity. But what if your loved one is introverted, shy, or socially anxious? In comparison to their more outgoing and boisterous peers, it can be tougher for introverted older adults to connect with their loved ones or go out into the community and spend some time with their friends. Here is how you can support introverted loved one to make sure they get to stay comfortable while interacting with others.
Why Older Adults Can Be Shy
Shyness refers to a feeling of discomfort when a person needs to interact with others. Many introverts especially become shy with outsiders. Studies have shown that introverts largely prefer the inner life of the mind as opposed to the outer world of other individuals. They find it pleasurable in being on their own, or a social setting of their preference like a one-to-one interaction in a calm environment. Shyness is a subjective and general label and may be an indicator of a larger condition in some older adults like anxiety disorder. To date, as many as 10 to 20% of older adults may currently be dealing with anxiety which often goes undiagnosed. This is because older adults are often reluctant to talk about their symptoms or because they feel that their feelings are normal as they have been living with them all their life.
Supporting Introverted Older Adults
Older adults who maintain good social interaction tend to be happier, healthier, and lead longer lives. Hence, as a family caregiver, how can you support an introverted aging loved one so they can enjoy these benefits in old age?
Take Small Steps
It is not easy for someone to come out of their comfort zone immediately. The same goes to helping introverted older adults move from their shy demeanor. Start by encouraging them to be more active such as meeting new people on their daily strolls or making new friends at a local community center. They can also get in touch with long-lost friends and go on a quick outing like a lunch or dinner. At the same time, do consider their feelings.
Create Comfortable Environment
Create an environment where your aging loved one will feel comfortable. That will be a space where they will not have trouble focusing or gets overstimulated. Turn off the television or radio and get rid of distractions. By being present and actively listening, your aging loved one will be more comfortable to interact with you. Be mindful of their behaviors and notice a change in their body language which may indicate stress or agitation.
Look for Activities for Introverts
Some senior activities cater to introverts. You can still keep your aging loved one entertained without them feeling uncomfortable or anxious. Some activities include:
- Listening to music
- Quiet reading
- Small group discussions or one-on-one visits
- Doing puzzles or playing cards
- Arts and crafts
- Attending a gallery or museum
- Attending a workshop or class
Consult a Professional
If anxiety, stress, or shyness has all implicated your older one’s health, it is important to seek professional help at an early stage. The physician may be able to identify and help your loved one manage the physical effects of their health concerns.