How To Combat Loneliness Felt by Seniors

Apr 02, 2024
Stephen Bleeker

During the COVID-19 lockdowns over the past year many of us experienced isolation like never before. It’s unnatural for humans; we’re used to existing within social structures that consist of interaction and contact with others.

In these situations, though, we knew it was temporary, that we would eventually be back to our normal, social lives. Seniors feel that same level of isolation on a daily basis, and unfortunately, there’s no end in sight for them. That’s why this article focuses on how to combat loneliness felt by seniors.

HOW COMMON IS LONELINESS?

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a report showing that one-third of adults over 45 are considered socially isolated. That’s not a typo, we may be focusing on seniors in this article, but 45 is when we start to see signs of social isolation. Immigrants, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community are likely to experience social isolation at a younger age. As the report states, these groups “have fewer social ties, and lower levels of social integration”.

WHY IS LONELINESS COMMON AMONG SENIORS?

Sometimes when we take a step back, we can see the bigger picture and understand it more. When seniors do this, many of them see that their social circle started to shrink when they retired. As we continue to age, we lose people we are close with; they move away, pass away, become isolated themselves.

Physical limitations such as reduced mobility can start to add to the loneliness, preventing social visits. It’s also common for aging adults to eventually lose their driver’s license, which enhances the problem.

WHY IS STAYING SOCIAL IS IMPORTANT?

A lack of companionship causes seniors to internalize negative feelings. Without having an outlet or emotional support, loneliness compounds, which can increase their risk of developing physical health problems, on top of the mental health problems they are likely already experiencing. Some common ways our physical health is impacted by loneliness include:

– INCREASED RISK OF COGNITIVE DECLINE AND DEMENTIA. Studies have shown that social behaviour can improve our overall cognitive performance, as well our recall rates.

– INCREASED RISK OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. A direct correlation between loneliness and our systolic blood pressure has been confirmed

– CHRONIC ILLNESS COMPLICATIONS. If a senior is living with a chronic condition, their symptoms are often exacerbated in isolating conditions.

HOW DO WE COMBAT THE LONELINESS FELT BY SENIORS?

– If social isolation starts to present itself after retirement, find a replacement activity. Many seniors have benefited from a part-time job, or volunteering for an organization.

– Join a service club. Organizations such as Rotary, Knights of Columbus, or Kiwanis meet regularly, often over a weekly meal. Friends and connections are built within the club, and a sense of purpose comes from the projects you are a part of.

– Join online communities. Every social media platform offers ways to connect to people you have something in common with. It could be a group of gardeners that share stories and tips, a group of animal lovers, or wine enthusiasts, etc.

– Use companionship services. Assurance Home Care, for example, provides customized companionship. This could include a conversation, physical exercise, or social outings. The objective is to maintain social and emotional stimulation, which improves their outlook and overall mood.