Valentines Day & Beyond: Loneliness & Isolation in the Elderly
- Chronic Illness – those dealing with chronic illness often choose not to engage in social activities because of limited energy, embarrassment, mobility issues and other barriers caused by disease management.
- Grief – many seniors have lost spouses, peers and close family members and may feel disconnected from others who don’t share their experiences & backgrounds. As we age, our social circles tend to become smaller.
- Hearing loss – the stress of not being able to interact in conversations can lead people to feel alone in a crowd or to shy away from activities that involve many people and background noise.
- Relationship deficit – sociologist Robert Weiss defines 6 significant relationship types that are essential to a feeling of connection. The absence of these relationships impacts our mental health as well as elevates our risk for loneliness. The loss of a spouse can represent the loss of all these significant relationship types in one individual.
- Attachment – relationships that give us a sense of security and safety.
- Social integration – relationships with people who are like minded and have similar concerns.
- Nurturance – relationships where we have a sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of someone else.
- Reassurance of worth – relationships where our skills and knowledge feel valued.
- Sense of reliable alliance – relationships where we can feel supported by someone else.
- Guidance – relationships that provide trustworthy advice in situations of stress.
1) Change in communication patterns
A) More calls or calls less frequently
B) Seems disinterested or distracted during conversations
C) Monosyllabic responses
D) Avoiding listening to messages or returning calls
E) Less eye contact during face-to-face visits.
- Senior Centers - Multipurpose senior centers are a resource hub for activity, services, and programs for all active older adults in the community. They focus on improving health and wellness, education, and socialization. For senior centers in SC, click here GetCareSC.com
- Community Involvement - Being part of a community gives a sense of belonging. Encouraging seniors to participate in community activities like local clubs, religious gatherings, or workshops can significantly reduce feelings of isolation. Studies have also shown that volunteering meets our need for nurturance relationships (see Weiss theory earlier in article)
- Therapy & Counseling – Older adults may have preconceived notions or believe outdated stereotypes about therapy is a beneficial way of working through issues of grief & loneliness.
- Regular Family Visits - Family may be the only social tie an aging adult has. Ensuring that family members visit regularly offers emotional support, reduces feelings of isolation, and give seniors something to look forward to.
- Physical activity & spending time in nature – with a physician’s approval, nature walks and other outside physical activities can boost mood and provide an outlet for lonely seniors.
- Pet Adoption – Animals can be a source of comfort & may help reduce stress & lower blood pressure. Visit www.petfinder.com to find animals available for adoption near you or visit your local animal shelters who will often waive adoption fees for seniors.
- Technology – learning technology helps us stay connected. Many local libraries and tech learning centers offer introductory courses for learning to use technology like the internet, zoom, email and FaceTime to maintain connections.