It’s easy to understand why so many of us wish to remain at home. We like our familiar surroundings and we fear institutionalization, the loss of control we feel it signifies and the financial drain it brings. We often fight to remain in homes we can barely maintain or navigate safely. However, this desire doesn’t negate the fact that almost two million Americans aged 65 and older rarely or never leave their homes. Another six million are considered “semi-homebound.”
This, despite the fact that studies show the majority of us want to be engaged in our communities. We just need a little help.
“Our homes are not what they once were — a place where we bring people together and provide hospitality to them,” said Elder Wm. Rolfe Kerr, president of BYU-Idaho, during an October devotional. “When I was growing up my parents hosted many parties at their home where neighbors would come and meet one another and enjoy each other’s company. Some couples had social clubs with dinners or dances for singles or seniors that helped everyone feel connected in their neighborhood or ward community. Today many people don’t even know their neighbors…and those who do know one another may struggle to relate because of a host of factors such as age, culture or ethnicity. We have increasingly mobile populations that don’t live in the same place for long periods of time and we use our homes primarily for private pursuits rather than community building.”
Homebound people who are isolated from others are at increased risk for developing depression and other social disorders. They also miss out on opportunities to learn and grow through social interaction. As Elder Kerr pointed out, “If you wish to be happy, get outside your front door. There is a whole world waiting for you — full of learning experiences, the opportunity to serve others, good associations with friends (old and new), beautiful scenery and countless blessings in a safe environment.