As the losses associated with aging mount, many seniors become isolated and are at risk of suffering from depression. Some ways to make sure they stay engaged with the world:
13. Get them involved. No longer managing the demands of child rearing or a career, many seniors have—for the first time—the opportunity to contribute the wisdom amassed over decades. Determined not to "wither up watching TV," Richard Williams, 71, spends three days each week tutoring middle schoolers in Port Arthur, Texas, through Experience Corps. "The best way to get uninvolved with yourself," says the widower, "is to get involved with someone who needs help." Research has linked participation in Experience Corps to boosts in cognitive and physical abilities and metabolism and to having a broader social network. Other organizations, like Senior Corps, arrange a variety of volunteer programs that include helping kids get immunized, counseling new business owners and teen parents, building houses, and more.
14. Find shared meals. Some seniors have difficulty with meal preparation or simply lose interest in food if they're feeling depressed. So-called congregate meals, which often take place at senior centers and may include transportation, provide a helping of the social interaction everyone needs. "For seniors tending toward depression, it can be a lifeline," says Ginzler of AARP. Such group meals and delivery services, like Meals on Wheels, can be found in their area on www.mealcall.org.
15. Keep them mobile. Surrendering the car keys—or losing a spouse who did all the driving—can bring about an emotionally devastating loss of independence, says gerontologist Somers. Keeping parents involved in the community may require creativity, especially if local public transit is lacking. The solution for Somers's dad before he died was a three-wheeled bicycle that got him around town—and offered a fitness benefit, too. "The stationary bike I gave him became a perfect place for him to hang clothes," she says. He used to put his dog in the three-wheeler's basket and get a kick out of all the waves from passersby.