Loneliness in seniors has become an increasingly big problem. As people grow older it can become harder to maintain a social network, especially if your family lives far away, people in your surroundings may be very sick, and in some cases, your friends and near family may be dead.
“Loneliness is a serious problem among elderly people”
Luckily loneliness is a feeling you can do something about. It is not an easy task, and for some, it can even be quite hard taking the first steps. But the reward by far outranks the starting point.
Isolation and loneliness in seniors
Loneliness is a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual. At some point in life, everybody will inevitably feel lonely. However, once that feeling ends in isolation and loneliness in seniors it can potentially become life-threatening. Loneliness in seniors can result in a declining health and poor quality of life. In some cases, it can even end out in death.
“One study found that lonely seniors have a 59% higher risk of physical and mental health decline, and a 45% greater risk of death”
As we have previously established isolation and loneliness in seniors can have a detrimental impact on their health. These seniors are more likely to develop illnesses such as heart diseases, dementia, depression, mental health issues, arthritis and the list just goes on and on.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help combat loneliness in seniors and the feelings of isolation. Further down you can get some different tips on how to take action against loneliness and isolation.
How loneliness can lead to depression – 5 steps to avoid it
From time to time everyone feels lonely. It’s perfectly normal, and in some cases healthy. Healthy in the sense that you know what you have and can appreciate it even more. However, when that loneliness leads to isolation and even depression, it can have a negative effect on your health. The feeling of loneliness doesn’t only happen to people who are alone. You can be surrounded by a lot of people and yet still feel lonely.
“Loneliness is subjective, you can’t argue with someone who says they’re lonely”
Oftentimes loneliness can be a predictor of depression, and they unfavorable interact with each other overtimes.
There are different precautions you can take on how to deal with loneliness. I have listed 5 different steps, down below, that you can take to fight loneliness as a senior:
Step 1: Make a plan
There are two types of loneliness. One is acute loneliness the other is the chronic subjective type.
“Acute loneliness is usually a result of losing a loved one or moving to a new place. Chronic subjective loneliness strikes despite your existing relationships”
Both types of loneliness require a plan of action. You can, for instance, make it a point to meet new people who have similar interests and hobbies as you. Or join a class or fitness team.
Step 2: Have realistic standards
Loneliness is often times a mismatch between your ideal and what you actually have. Try to accept that not everybody you meet will become lifelong friends. Sometimes it’s okay to only have fun and light conversation with a variety of people.
Step 3: Talk to somebody you trust
Talking to somebody whom you trust can be a great way for you to get feedback and ideas on how to combat your feelings of loneliness. Another upside to this is, talking about your feelings. Talking to somebody else will affect your feelings of loneliness. Talking can also be good if you are battling depression.
Step 4: Meditate
By developing a meditation practice you can start to identify, and release some of the thoughts you have bottled up inside. Some of these thoughts may be undermining your efforts to meet new people.
“Mindfulness teaches people that they are more than who they think they are”
Step 5: Do something, anything!
If you’re feeling lonely and want to change it, any small step you take can be a great one. Even striking up a casual, friendly conversation, with someone random, is a good move forward. Don’t be afraid to just throw yourself back in the game of talking to people.
How to deal with loneliness
Dealing with loneliness is no exact science, unfortunately. The first thing you need to do is to get a good grasp of the nature of your loneliness. Are you looking for simple companionship? Guidance? Reassuring words? Physical touch? Sex?
Once you have figured out your source of loneliness it becomes easier to find a solution. Reach out to people around you and make a conscious decision to “fight” your loneliness. Often time’s loneliness and depression go hand in hand.
Depression in seniors is a serious condition. It can affect your daily life and make it harder for you to carry out your daily activities. It can also take some of the joy and pleasure you use to find in activities you usually enjoy. Which then leads to loneliness and isolation.
If the feeling of loneliness persists, you may begin to lose hope and find it hard to enjoy any aspect of life. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. To avoid your loneliness leading to depression is to take conscious actions towards filling the hole of your loneliness.
“Overcoming loneliness requires thought and effort, but it is certainly possible”
Although your feelings of loneliness don’t go away overnight, it does become easier to “fight” it, once you know the cause. Remember, loneliness is a feeling. Accept that you feel lonely, then focus on moving forward.
5 steps on how to prevent loneliness in seniors
There are different steps you can take towards overcoming your loneliness. I have made a list 5 steps you can take to prevent the feelings of loneliness as a senior:
1) Make new friends
Make an effort to meet new people. A great way to meet new people is by joining a club or taking up a new hobby. Other good places to meet new people include health clubs, civic and service organizations, educational classes, travel clubs, and special interest groups.
At first, you might enjoy the companionship of a casual acquaintance. But give it time and some of these acquaintances may grow into close friendships. When you see an opportunity to introduce yourself, do so! Engage in contact with others. Usually, people are happy to include newcomers and growing new friendships requires ongoing contact.
But you should never forget to make an effort towards your old friends and family. It’s all about creating a balance.
2) Start volunteering
Volunteering can also pose a great opportunity to meet new people. While helping your community and making a change for other people you can meet other people. It’s completely up to you to decide what kind of volunteer work you want to do, and there are plenty of opportunities to pick from.
You can either check in your local phone book or check with your local senior center, area agency on aging, and hospital for volunteer opportunities.
3) Take up a hobby
Taking up a hobby can both be something new or something you haven’t done in a while. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it keeps you motivated and thinking forward. Your hobby might even be something where you meet up in a group and through that, you might get some new friends.
If you are not quite sure what kind of hobby you should do, you can always join a class, and get some inspiration from that. Here are some examples of hobbies you can consider. Join a book club, a cooking club, do arts and crafts, play an instrument, engineering, get a pen pal and so on. The list is endless.
4) Be more creative
“Creativity is something that makes the mind happier”
Typically a creative person is someone who thinks more about the many great things they can do. The sky is the limit.
Being creative is a quite subjective thing, and anything you want to do, you can. You can also join a class and learn more about a specific type of creativity. An added bonus is the chance to meet new people.
5) Adopt a pet
Most people don’t feel so lonely once they have the company of a pet. There are great opportunities to adopt a pet from a rescue center. That way you can also make a difference for a deserving animal. However, you should make sure to research the needs and requirements of whatever animal you are considering.