(SAN RAFAEL, Calif. – December 16, 2013) —The holidays can be a difficult time for seniors, particularly for the one in four older adults suffering from hearing loss. However, according to the senior-sensitivity experts at SCAN Health Plan, there are things party hosts and their guests can do to ensure that seniors with impaired hearing have an opportunity to enjoy and participate in some holiday cheer.
“Loud, festive holiday gatherings can be laborious for people with hearing loss,” said Delena Penner, community outreach manager for SCAN Health Plan in Northern California. Penner coordinates SCAN’s Trading Ages senior-sensitivity program, an interactive workshop that lets participants experience some of the physical and emotional challenges that come with aging, including hearing loss. “In our workshops participants are often very surprised at how isolating hearing impairment can be.”
According to Penner, SCAN recommends the following tips to a senior-sensitive holiday:
Be mindful. Simply being aware that older adults are more likely to be experiencing some hearing loss is a good start. Some seniors may not even be aware that they’re having difficulty hearing. Make older children and other family members aware of the things they can do to help (including the tips below).
Reduce background noise. Background music can create a festive ambiance; but for people with hearing loss, loud music creates a barrier to communication and social interaction. Keep the volume to a minimum. Even if it isn’t your party, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask that the background music be lowered so everyone can hear each other.
Speak slowly. People with hearing loss often become skilled in reading facial expressions and picking up unspoken clues. With that in mind talk slowly, and look directly at the older adult to whom you are speaking.
Find a quiet space. If the party gets too loud, consider stepping aside from the festivities for a quiet visit with an older family member. The one-on-one time could turn into a cherished memory. After all, spending quality time with family is what the holidays are all about.
The physical and psycho-social effect of sensory loss on seniors is something SCAN has been focusing on for many years through its Trading Ages senior-sensitivity program. The training helps participants understand how age-related conditions – such as hearing loss, vision changes and loss of dexterity – can affect everyday activities, behaviors and actions.
“As a health plan focused exclusively on the needs of Medicare beneficiaries, SCAN is in a unique position to help people understand more about the aging process,” said Penner.
SCAN Health Plan is the state’s second largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plan. Further information may be obtained at scanhealthplan.com.
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