How to Combat Loneliness in Seniors
Humans are social creatures, and this does not change as we age. People need social contact and meaningful relationships to thrive both mentally and physically. As we get older, we may face loneliness because of retirement, family members moving away, or friends passing away. This is why loneliness in seniors can be common.
The elderly may also become confined and loneliness may set in due to mobility issues or health concerns. If you have problems with your eyes or your hearing, you may be restricted from driving a car. This significantly limits your ability to go out and socialize.
Being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely. Some seniors occupy their time very well and still socialize regularly, which contributes to a healthy lifestyle.
In this strange time of an unexpected global pandemic, you may feel isolated and loneliness may have become a struggle for you. Let’s take a look at a few ways to help loneliness in during these times of COVID-19.
Feeling lonely on occasion is quite normal, but deep-set feelings of loneliness are not. It helps to go to the root of the problem; this can aid you in understanding and applying actions to help alleviate the feelings of loneliness.
First of all, know that you are not alone. According to a University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA), “More than one in four older adults reported feeling isolated and 34 percent said they felt a lack of companionship some of the time or often.”
Understandably, you may feel lonely if your family members live far away and cannot visit very often. As we age, so do our friends. You may have recently lost your partner or some dear friends. You may also have recently been denied the renewal of your driver’s license and cannot get to the places you used to go to. This can have a major impact on your feelings of isolation. Also, other health factors, like incontinence, may leave you with some discomfort about going out.
How Does Loneliness Affect Seniors?
The effects of loneliness in seniors are proven in several studies. The National Institute on Aging says that, “Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.”
Loneliness and COVID-19
The global pandemic that has hit us suddenly has had, and will continue to have, a lasting impact on our daily lives. Everyone has been affected by COVID-19, especially the elderly.
Knowing that you are at a higher risk for complications should you contract the virus may trigger some anxiety and deepen the feelings of isolation as you social distance yourself from friends and family.
This period will pass but will have a lasting effect on our social interactions. We may have to refrain from going to certain places and rethink our social activities to stay safe and healthy for some time still. We may also have to limit human touch, like hugging our friends and family members, until an efficient way to combat the virus has been found.
Ways to Combat Loneliness
There are ways to stay in touch with friends and family during this time and there are other ways to deal with long-term loneliness.
Stay Connected With Video Chats
Video chats are the new normal at the moment. Colleagues have turned to their devices to continue working as they isolate themselves in their homes. Video chats are also a great way to stay in contact with your loved ones. This may be a good time to think about purchasing a smartphone so you can still talk with them on a regular basis.
Of course, this cannot beat seeing the people you love in person, but it is the next best thing. Because it can be slightly intimidating at first, have someone help you out in showing you how to use your smartphone.
Foster an Animal
Another great way to combat loneliness is to have something to care for. Shelters are full of animals that need homes. Try to foster for a short period of time if you cannot adopt a furry friend at the moment.
Animals can alleviate loneliness and keep us entertained. Remember dogs need regular walks, so if this is not possible for you, consider an indoor animal, like a cat.
Consider Assisted Living Facilities
Do you live alone? Senior living centers offer a way to make new friends and keep daily human contact. Of course, this is not the right solution at the moment as we go through this global health crisis. But when this is over, you can visit several homes in order to find the perfect fit for you. There is an adaptation period that you need to go through, but this helps alleviate feelings of loneliness.
You’re Not Alone
Experiencing loneliness is not easy. It’s important to reach out and to find solutions to help you lift as much loneliness as you can so you can enjoy life to its fullest.