Loneliness can be harmful to our health, including mental health, and for older people this can be even harder. Their home might once have been a flourishing hub of activity, with children running around and constant visitors through the doors. But, families grow up and move away, leaving people feeling isolated and alone.
If you are concerned your loved one is suffering from isolation, consider the following advice by Hadar Swersky on how to combat loneliness in the elderly.
- Focus on family time. If you stay near your aging relative, pay a visit. Whether you plan an activity or just sit and chat, time with family can be priceless. There is great power in intergenerational connections, which is something people have observed through history, but recent scientific research has been proving it as well.
- Reach out to local friends and neighbors. Frequently, local contacts would be happy to stop by and visit your loved one if asked. Some schools and congregations even have outreach programs designed to help lonely seniors.
- Home care can fight loneliness in the elderly. In-home caregivers provide help with tasks like meal preparation, housekeeping, and transportation. But they also offer much-needed companionship for older adults.
- Encourage relationships with other older adults. Frequently, seniors are going through things that younger people even family caregivers can’t fully understand. Having a support network of peers can combat loneliness in the elderly by offering a safe space to talk about the concerns that come with age. Hadar notes that older people may be comfortable discussing death and loneliness in a way that younger people are not accustomed to, so being able to speak openly can help stop anxiety and loneliness.
- If you are worried about an aging loved one who may be struggling with loneliness, and wondering how best to support them, you are far from alone. The issue is becoming more and more commonly expressed and discussed and offers an occasion for relatively frequent advice listicles in the media. The approach taken here is to begin from the ground up, to recognize the causes of the loneliness epidemic and go from there to recommend practical ways you can support your dear ones.
- Join a gym or fitness centre. This is a great way to stay physically fit and engage with others. Staying socially active and maintaining your relationships are extremely important parts of healthy ageing. Stay as vibrant, active, and social as you have always been.
- Volunteer in your community. Hadar Swersky says helping others is a fantastic way to give something back to the community and remind yourself that even later in life you too have a great deal to offer.
- Pick up the Phone. It is difficult to find time in our busy lives, but a few minutes can make a big difference to a lonely senior. Set up phone calls with family members, ideally every day. Staying in close contact can create the feeling of togetherness even if you can’t physically be together. If your loved one has a tablet, smartphone, or computer, you could also try a video conferencing call, email or text. Or there is always good old-fashioned letter writing.
Senior loneliness is not an unavoidable part of aging. At any age, we need individuals in our lives who care about us, will giggle with us and help us through hard times. Even if your loved one has a health condition or other problem that keeps them home, there are ways to stay connected. Just a couple social interactions per week can make a real difference in their physical and emotional health.