Loneliness Among the Elderly
As a senior becomes older, their social circle starts to shrink. Significant others may pass away, and family members may move to another area or state. Even if they still have friends in the area, they may not see them because of limited mobility. Driving may become an issue to the point where it is no longer an option for the person (see our article on When it is time to take the Keys). All of this leads to increased loneliness and isolation for the elderly. So how can caregivers, loved ones, and the elderly themselves combat prolonged loneliness?
The consequences of loneliness among seniors
Loneliness is similar to chronic stress; it raises the level of stress hormones. It also contributes to mental illness, heart disease, mental illness, and inflammation. Often seniors behave in ways that make other people distance themselves from the senior.
Loneliness can cause depression and high blood pressure. Seniors who are lonely are more pessimistic about their future and are more apt to indulge in unhealthy behaviors like drinking excessively, smoking, and not exercising.
Additionally, Seniors who are on oxygen or suffer from incontinence have problems with mobility. This may lead to embarrassment by their lack of ability. With these types of problems, seniors will feel self-conscious thus leaving their house less frequently.
What can be done to decrease loneliness
There are some ways to reduce isolation in seniors. When interacting with a senior, find out what their interests were before and try to rekindle that passion for them. Not every interest will still fit their abilities. If this is the case, adapt it to their current condition.
After hearing about the senior’s various interests, make a plan to defeat loneliness. If the person enjoyed painting, see what the senior center has to offer. If the person enjoyed crafts, check craft stores to see when the free craft lessons or lessons which might interest them start.
What can they teach you
Discover what a senior can teach you. Many seniors have untapped knowledge about forgotten things to do, for example making fishing flies or crocheting. By asking a senior to share their experience with you, you learn something new, and they can teach you, and most importantly they feel valued and useful which is shown to improve mental health. It gives them the satisfaction of spreading something they’re good at, and it gives you a chance to chase away some loneliness.
Volunteer work can get the senior out of the house and involved with other people. Not only can they share their life skills with other people, but it will contribute to their mental health, well-being and increase their longevity.
Senior centers offer physical exercise programs which will reduce isolation and loneliness in seniors. Plus, they get the benefits of social interaction and a feeling of greater well-being regardless of what type of exercise program it was.
There are many causes of loneliness in seniors, but there are also quite a few solutions. Connecting a senior with different social resources, even if it’s Meals on Wheels, can help to combat the loneliness that many seniors feel. By making an effort to reduce the feelings of loneliness can help seniors to overcome and defeat these feelings.