Most seniors report that they feel more and more lonely as they get older. That’s no surprise considering the U.S. Census Bureau states that 28% of people 65 or older live alone.
For older adults, loneliness and feelings of isolation can contribute to a number of physical health conditions including heart disease, higher risk of stroke, and issues with forming memories. In fact, a study published in 2016 by the British Cardiovascular Society reported that loneliness and feelings of isolation are just as telling as smoking or obesity when it comes to risk factors for death.
So what can seniors do to stave off those feelings that they are alone?
Phone calls and email messaging is a great way to stay in touch, but research shows there’s no substitute for good old fashioned face-to-face conversation. Schedule regular visits with family members and friends to share a meal or a cup of coffee.
If you serve in a caregiver role for an older adult, don’t forget to have some time to yourself. It’s important that you have free time where you can take a break. It’s good for your health and great for your loved one to get to interact with a new face from time to time.
Contact your local Aging Resource Center for help finding opportunities for your senior. They can likely connect you with local in-home options, provide information about local events, and tell you about day center programs that would be a good fit for your loved one.
Find a Sense of Community
One of the hardest parts of getting older is losing your sense of community. After retiring, seeing family members move away, or experiencing loved ones pass away, it can be difficult for seniors to find a group where they feel they belong.
For seniors who are more independent, volunteering or joining a local club is a good option. Whether you think a book club at the local library or a weekly Bingo night at a restaurant would be a good option, there is something happening in your community that any senior could enjoy.
Consider a Move to a Senior Living Facility
For some seniors, a move to a senior living facility is a great way to stave off loneliness (while making sure all other health needs are being taken care of). These types of facilities often offer a variety of social events that are open to any residents to attend.
Older adults who don’t need any assistance typically enjoy living in a senior apartment where their neighbors are the same age as them. Seniors who are starting to have a little trouble managing things on their own should consider an assisted living community where they have staff available to help out by resident request. It’s a difficult choice to move out of their home into an “old folks” home, but many seniors who make the switch to senior living options before it becomes medically necessary typically say they wish they had made the choice to move sooner!
It’s important that older adults do not internalize their feelings of loneliness. Developing a sense of community and spending time with others can go a long way towards making our aging population feel cherished and respected.