Five Ways to Bridge the Gap of Loneliness among Seniors
Loneliness and social isolation are among the most potent factors that lead to health risks among the elderly. And being alone is all too common: According to Connect2Affect, an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)-sponsored website, 17% of adults aged 65 and older are isolated, while 51% of people aged 75 and older live alone. And the site also says that the subjective feeling of loneliness increases the risk of death by 26%. Other issues linked to loneliness include stress and depression.
Usually, the loss of a spouse plants the seed of loneliness among seniors and is further aggravated by the death of aging siblings and friends. The social circle also starts to shrink due to physical decline, including loss of movement, vision, and hearing. Unfortunately, isolation is more likely to go up as the population of seniors continues to grow. By 2060, the number of U.S. citizens aged 65 and above will reach 98.2 million, approximately one-fourth of the total population.
Considering the increasing prevalence of this issue and its powerful nature, people should take steps to reduce loneliness among elderly loved ones. Here are five tips that will help you fill the gaps of loneliness.
- Visit Regularly
Personal visits at regular intervals are the best way to reduce the loneliness of your loved ones. Just a warm hug or a smile can change their mood for days to come. If they are living on their own, you can drop in to help cook and/or share a meal with them. If possible, take your family members with you to visit them. Plan to visit at least once a week.
If your aging parent or loved one is living in a nursing home, ask the administration if you can participate in the various in-house social activities with him or her. However, if the senior person is acting irritable due to medical reasons such as Alzheimer’s, keep your visits brief and make sure to consult their doctor before creating a visiting schedule.
- Make Frequent Phone Calls
Sometimes physical distance may not allow you to visit your senior as regularly as you might want. For example, if your aging parent lives in senior care Albuquerque and you live in Phoenix, it wouldn’t be possible to visit them every week. You don’t need to have lengthy phone conversations. A brief talk can be more than enough to make them feel connected.
While you should tell them about your life, make sure to ask about what’s happening in theirs. Chatting about your loved one’s life shows that you are taking an active interest in them. Speaking with their grandkids also fosters a sense of connection.
- Help Them Embrace New Technology
Introducing your loved one to new communication channels such as video calling, email, and social media is a cool way to keep in touch. Unfortunately, some senior citizens are unable to take full advantage of the latest technology because either it is too expensive or they lack the motivation. But if possible, you should encourage and teach them to use video calling apps such as Skype; email; and even a social media sites such as Facebook so they can have an active and involved social life.
Youth clubs and non-profit groups may volunteer to teach the elderly to handle computers. To find out what is available in your area, contact your local public library, senior center, college, or university. Most nursing homes and assisted living facilities can also provide the contact information of volunteers.
- Suggest They Develop a New Hobby
Elder adults with a sense of purpose are more likely to lead a socially fulfilling life. Helping your loved one find a hobby can do that. Chances are, you already know about their hobbies. Unfortunately, many seniors tend to give them up. So you may need to encourage them to revive old hobbies or pick up new ones.
Sometimes, physical or financial challenges may force them to give up one of their hobbies. If your aging parent is no longer able to enjoy their favorite hobby, you can modify it. For example, if physical limitations have forced your loved one to give up wildlife photography, you can suggest they put together scrapbooks of old photos.
- Encourage Them to Participate in Social Activities
You can also talk to your loved one about taking part in various social activities. Contact the local senior center. Usually, these centers organize entertainment and fun activities like bridge.
Other group activities include drawing, painting, listening to or playing music and watching movies. Local community clubs may also bring seniors together over a meal or a cup of tea. Dining with peers not only connects elders, but also helps promote nutrition. Sometimes, senior centers also arrange one-day trips and outings.
If your loved one wants, you can either accompany him or her to an activity or arrange transportation.
Evan Thompson, CEO and founder of Senior.One, has a longstanding interest in finding solutions for seniors. He helps connect senior citizens and their family members with elder care service providers and find the resources they need in one place. He offers information on nursing homes, hospice, financial planning, medical professionals, adult care and lifestyle options.