Social isolation is a common problem among seniors in the United States. And the problem will continue to persist as the population grows. In fact, according to U.S. Census Bureau, around 11 million or 28% of Americans aged 65 years old and older lived alone at the time of the survey. Many seniors can’t do much about their situation on their own. That’s why it’s so important for people need to know what to do for lonely seniors. Knowing how to help lonely seniors can make a huge difference in their lives.
Many seniors come to be residents in our assisted living and memory care homes after living on their own for a significant period of time. It’s great to see them become much more happy as their social interaction with others increases.
The feelings of loneliness and isolation are proven to be detrimental to one’s health. Nicholas R. Nicholson published a study in The Journal of Primary Prevention called A Review of Social Isolation where he observed how social isolation affects the health of older adults. The risks include dementia, all-cause mortality, increased risk of re-hospitalization, and increased number of falls.
Social isolation shouldn’t be taken lightly and it should not be considered as a normal part of aging. You can help your elderly loved one combat or better yet, prevent social isolation by knowing how to avoid it in the first place.
What to Do for Lonely Seniors? Here are 9 Ways You Can Help
Instill a Sense of Purpose
If your loved one has a sense of purpose, it’s unlikely that they will give in to the feelings of loneliness and isolation. Give them something to do, like hobbies and interests they might be willing to try. Anything that involves a group of people – may it be weekly walks in the park with a social group or playing board games with a group of seniors in your community.
Learning how to help lonely seniors really can begin with brainstorming a sense of purpose that might appeal to the seniors. A sense of purpose will create the motivation to become more social as the seniors appeals to others to help with that purpose.
If your elderly loved one is not too keen on socializing or he/she doesn’t have any idea on what to do, you can always resort to bringing them to a local senior center and attend planned events and activities.
Volunteering is also a great way to give them a sense of purpose while letting them engage with other people. Giving back to the society lets them feel that they are still needed. Encourage your elderly loved one to remain or become active in their interests.
Access to Transportation
One of the ways that can prevent your elderly loved one from being social is the lack of transportation. Since a lot of seniors are too old to drive, lack of adequate transportation will take a toll on them especially when they live alone. Any form of accessible transportation that helps your elderly loved one get around is a great way to promote independence and social health.
You can give free rides to your loved one or teach them to use the public transportation so they can maintain personal relationships with family and friends.
Attend Church Weekly
If your loved one is a regular church-goer, make sure that he/she continues to do so. Going to church weekly helps in forming and maintaining relationships with other people. It also gives them a sense of purpose and enjoyment of the singing and preaching. Plus, going to church is proven to have several benefits for your loved one. Most priests and volunteers will know how to help lonely seniors.
It’s undeniable that physical exercise and movement cause our bodies to release a happy hormone called endorphins which help reduce stress and makes us feel good. If you think exercise isn’t for seniors, think again because exercise is extremely beneficial to them. It gets their blood moving and it also increases flexibility and strength, as well as encourage a positive body image which helps them feel confident when interacting with other people.
Always remember that positive comments boost your elderly loved one’s self-esteem. Likewise, discouraging them from worrying about their appearance may cause them not to feel self-conscious at all to the point that they avoid other people altogether.
Involvement in the Community
Another way to give them a sense of purpose while widening their social circle is to get them involved in a community. Any activity will do – from playing chess at the local shelter to volunteering to help around in a daycare center.
Meeting new people of all ages and interacting with them help seniors alleviate any feelings of loneliness. If your elderly loved one does not like to volunteer, you can have them attend social events or you can enroll them in a class so they can remain involved. You can enroll them in an art class or attend a local music festival to spice things up for your loved one. Assisted living facilities help integrate seniors into society by bringing them to events within the community.
Adopt a Pet or a Get Them a Plant
Since the feelings of loneliness and uselessness are common among seniors, getting your loved one a pet or a plant gives them a sense of nurturing and ownership. In addition to that, it helps to lift the senior’s spirits and give them daily purpose.
Is your loved one a cat or dog person? You can bring them to a local pet shelter and help them pick a dog or cat to adopt. If your loved one is incapable of taking care of an animal, you can still go with them to a pet shelter so they can walk dogs or just visit.
Pet therapy is proven to help lower anxiety and blood pressure, contribute positively to the overall mood, and boost memory. Caring for someone other than yourself is fulfilling and rewarding for people who need companionship.
Address Isolating Health Issues
Getting older usually means your body may not work as well when you were younger. Many health issues such as incontinence can prevent them from leaving their home and interacting with other people. Family caregivers and healthcare professionals can help you and your loved one resolve this issue. Medications and treatments can help ease the burden but be sure to talk to a doctor as to how to properly approach the issue.
Support an Elderly Loved One Who Recently Lost a Spouse
This may seem obvious but in times of trials, extra support is highly needed. A loss of a loved one is one of the most common reasons why a senior becomes socially isolated. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine losing a person you’ve spent your whole life with. For this reason, you definitely have to show them that you are there for them. Provide extra support – emotionally and socially while they are in mourning.
Sending flowers is good, but make it a point to go the extra mile and actually spend time with your loved one. Visit them weekly, if not every day. Bring them good food, talk to them, be there when they cry, and more. Your presence will mean so much to them. It encourages them to grieve healthily rather than spiral into depression and loneliness.
Make Sure They Eat Healthy
Eating healthy contributes to your overall health and makes you feel good about yourself. To stay healthy, seniors have to eat fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Minimize the intake of sugar, starch, and unhealthy fats as it can make you feel sluggish.
Social isolation doesn’t have to be a part of aging. As early as now, implementing these tips should show you how to help lonely seniors. If your elderly parent is already exhibiting signs of loneliness, it’s never too late to turn things around and help them lead a better life.