The Fourth Domain: Social Participation

Well, here’s one that needs quite a bit of attention, and that’s not said lightly. According to the Age-in-Place survey done here in October, more than 1/3 of us are experiencing or expect to experience lonliness as they age. As of July, 2021, there are 30,369 residents of Door County. This means that over 10,000 of our friends and neighbors will feel alone and sad at any given time. Whoa!

Social participation in an Age-Friendly community means older adults participating in leisure, social, cultural and spiritual activities that keeps them integrated in the community, helps them stay engaged, and ensures that they are informed. Participation is certainly affected by access to transport and facilities, affordabillity, and simple awareness of activities.

There is a broad range of interests and needs to consider. Some folks enjoy being with people all of the time, while others prefer small groups or one-on-one time. One measure of this domain is having a variety of social activities that are accessible for people with disabilities and those who live further away. The time of day and accessible locations served by transportation options are also important. In addition, activities must be affordable to include all older people of the community.

Finally, awareness of activities must be raised among seniors of the community, and this was highlighted in the Community Forums in November. Many cited different sources for learning about events and programs but voiced the desire to have one place to find information about all things social. They also were wanting wanting to be a part of intergenerational activities, pass on knowledge, traditions and experience with younger people.

There are a number of programs and initatives that have found success in other communities. The AARP has a number of articles on how others have created social and intergenerational opportunities. Even on our shelf, we have a program called Vitality in Aging, focused on engagement in health, nutrition and socialization with reinforcement. Have ideas about how to make social opportunities accessible, affordable, or customizable? Let us know. We can learn from each other, and we can make a community where lonliness is something that showed up in a past survey, not experienced by residents of our Door County.