Staying Social: Daily Peer-to-Peer Interaction Benefits Seniors

Every weekday, about 45 seniors from areas like Port Jervis, Newburgh and Ellenville gather at Elant at Goshen to spend the day. They meet to stay active, to have and achieve goals, to visit with friends, to help each other and to have a purpose.

These seniors participate in Elant at Goshen’s Adult Day program; the facility offers two variations of this program – a social model and a medical model, for those in need of nursing care such as checking blood sugar levels, checking blood pressure or dispensing daily medications. While at the Adult Day program, seniors partake in whole group activities to foster consistent socialization, such as bingo; exercise programs, such as yoga, Zumba and chair exercises, walks, and trips to local restaurants, parks or even a casino.

In addition to being enjoyable for seniors, socialization has proven to provide significant health benefits. Ongoing socialization can improve the quality of life for both seniors and their caregivers.

Socialization in a program like Elant’s gives seniors a sense of relevance and purpose, said Dr. Sukhdeep Kaur, Vice President of Medical Affairs for Elant and the Medical Director for Elant at Goshen and Glen Arden. “A senior’s mood and outlook toward life is very, very important,” she said. “Seniors need to be active and have a schedule or routine. They want to spend time with people their age – peers that they have a commonality with and can relate to.”

Sara Postelnek, lives independently in her apartment and comes to Elant at Goshen three times a week. “This program helps you grow like a flower; you start to meet new people and feel better about yourself,” said Postelnek. “I have met a lot of new friends since I started this program. I like the activities, like Zumba, yoga, music with Sue (Conklin, music therapist at Elant at Goshen), and the bells choir.”

A Harvard study, the results of which were published in 2007 by the American Journal of Public Health, found that socialization might provide as many benefits to older adults as does exercise. One of the most significant findings of the study is that effective socialization delays memory loss as seniors age.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, used data gathered from 1998 to 2004 from the Health and Retirement Study. This data reveals that the maintenance of strong social ties may preserve brain health as we age. The study also suggests that social isolation may be an important risk factor for cognitive decline in the elderly. In fact, study subjects who scored highest on social integration assessments enjoyed less than half the rate of memory loss of those who scored as the least socially active.

Ethel Davis, 91, lives independently and receives help with the activities of daily living at home through a home health aide. Five days a week she is at Elant at Goshen in the medical model of the Adult Day program. “If I didn’t come here, I’d be stuck at home,” said Davis. “I like coming here. Everyone treats me nicely, and, they give me my medicine.”

Elizabeth Grennille, Director of Adult Day Health Services for Elant at Goshen, said participants in the program typically start with morning coffee or tea, sitting and chatting for a short time and then they go to an exercise program. For lunch, participants can choose from a variety of hot or cold menu choices and options are also available for those who have special dietary needs. In the afternoon they play table games, join in group music programs, and participate in group word games to keep the mind sharp.

“The participants in these programs help each other,” said Grennille. “They set the tables; they clean the tables. They have a job and a purpose. If seniors are alone at home, they feel isolated and lonely. But when they participate in group activities and games they feel needed by others.  It’s all about community and a sense of self-worth and belonging.”

Lisa F. Berkman, the study’s senior author and director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, reported that simply visiting and providing support to aging loved ones does not provide sufficient socialization to aid in the preservation of brain health. Instead, it is essential for the aging to continually engage and participate in community activities in order to reap the full benefits of socialization.

Joan Winkleman, lives independently in her apartment, but attends the social day program four times a week. Otherwise, she’d be home by herself. At Elant, she calls bingo games, waters and feeds the birds and sets tables. “I look forward to coming here every day,” she said. “It gives me something to do. I know I can get help from someone if I am here. I might not be able to if I am at home by myself.”


Elant’s Adult Day Programs

Elant offers Adult Day Programs at their Elant at Goshen, Elant at Meadow Hill, and Elant Choice locations.

  • Daybreak, Elant’s social day program, provides an entertaining, stimulating and supervised group environment for those who can live independently, but may benefit from additional activities and companionship during the day. The program also offers activities and socialization with other program attendees and staff, and includes nutritious meals and snacks during the day.
  • Elant’s Adult Day Health Care Program is a community-based medical day program designed to provide a safe and nurturing environment for those with cognitive impairments and physical limitations so that they may function in a more enabling environment. These programs provide companionship and stimulation for disabled or chronically ill individuals, as well as seniors who require assistance but prefer to live at home.

For more information about Elant’s Adult Day Programs or to schedule a tour, call 1-800-501-3936.