Loneliness is an epidemic among seniors. In the US, it is affecting a considerable number of older adults. And the situation worldwide is even worse. Seniors are suffering from social loneliness due to the corona pandemic and many other reasons. Thus, it is crucial to take steps to prevent loneliness in seniors.
Loneliness in seniors is just not about being alone. It’s the feeling of being a loner in this world. Such isolated feelings can bring harmful emotional and physical problems.
This is just the brief. We will know more about senior loneliness throughout the article. And our final target is to know how to prevent loneliness in seniors.
The Three Causes of Loneliness in Seniors
The causes of loneliness in the elderly can be quite a few. There are many contributing factors to such a feeling in seniors. But there can be some fundamental reasons behind loneliness in seniors. For example, older people can feel lonely when they have a small social network.
Seniors can also feel lonely when they are doing isolated activities. This can involve watching television alone. Apart from them, there are other significant contributors to senior loneliness. Here are 3 of the most critical factors.
1. Grief: from losing someone dear
This is one of the most powerful factors of loneliness in elders. They may lose a family member and dive into the sea of loneliness. Losing a dear friend can also push them towards alone times.
But seniors also understand that losing someone close is a natural event. Yet, it becomes tough for them to handle so many losses throughout their lives. The pile of losses becomes mountains, and they become vulnerable.
The physical impact of grief is enormous too. The stress of losing someone can harm the immune system. And it can lead to more mental damages with anxiety, dementia, depression and others conditions.
2. Aging and living alone
The loss of someone close leads to social isolation. As seniors start isolating themselves, they become lonely in real life. And this is another major factor in lonely feeling in seniors.
Aging is a natural phenomenon. But this can also make seniors feel lonely. They start losing people around them. As a result, there is a lack of companionship in their lives. And eventually, they start isolating themselves to wait for their last breath.
Another factor that connects with this is the generational gap. In America, most older people don’t discuss their life events with people younger than 36 years. This is only one example of a lack of social integration. And it can easily lead to a lack of companionship and loneliness.
And to point out the negative fact, many people think that senior living facilities are increasing these challenges. People believe that seniors are driven towards senior-only facilities. As a result, they are unable to form social groups with younger adults.
So, caregivers must build up their game to prevent social isolation among seniors.
3. Loss of activities and transportation
Let’s face it, seniors don’t drive. They need constant support. And so, driving is dangerous for them. This also means that they don’t travel much.
Lack of all these activities can make them feel lonely too. No driving means no need to maintain a car. And this results in older people feeling less and less responsible.
When they start feeling like this, they stop on their daily fun activities. Instead, they tend to stay consumed within themselves. And this can lead to a cut-off from the outside world.
All these work together to stay alone in their everyday lives. As a result, they either exclude themselves or feel excluded from their social groups. So, they don’t involve in activities and become lonely.
Impact of Social Loneliness in Seniors
According to CDC, Loneliness and social isolation are linked to serious health conditions. Loneliness is a serious mental condition. And it can lead to other psychological and physical issues.
There are many alarming impacts of social loneliness in seniors. Here are a few of them:
1. Loneliness and depression
It is obvious that being alone can lead to depression. And the most serious form of this is clinical depression. How can you figure out that an older person is suffering from clinical depression? Here are a few symptoms:
- Negative thinking. It also includes not being able to see things positively.
- Getting irritated and annoyed. This can result in lashing out at others.
- Gaining weight or losing weight
- Exhaustion and being lethargic
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Having suicidal thoughts
- Being insomniac
- Restlessness, being agitated and unable to focus
Social isolation can lead to any of these behaviors. And they are ideal for developing depressive disorders. So, the risk of developing depression is very high from loneliness.
2. Loneliness and dementia
Very few people understand the link between loneliness and dementia. Well, there may not be many direct links. But loneliness can still lead to dementia among seniors.
When seniors are lonely, they become easily depressed. This affects their cognitive abilities. For example, they may not be able to think as profoundly as they used to.
This can result in forgetting things frequently. Also, the symptoms of depression stated above can be the early signs of dementia. So, if you want supportive care for dementia patients, you need to prevent loneliness among them.
3. Loneliness and cardiovascular conditions
Loneliness is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. It is a great contributor to coronary health diseases. This includes stroke, hypertension and other heart diseases.
This happens due to many reasons together. To begin with, loneliness can lead to depression. The symptoms of depression can lead to severe mental health issues.
And mental health problems can slowly deteriorate our hearts. They can lead to different heart diseases mentioned above.
How to Prevent Loneliness in Elderly: 10 Tips
Combating loneliness in seniors is something we cannot ignore. Apart from the obvious casualties, loneliness brings many harmful effects on them. We don’t want them to lead the final chapters of their lives on a low note, right?
So, to help lonely elderly people, we need some preventive measures. They can be activities, social grouping and many more. Here are 10 tips for caregivers to prevent loneliness in seniors.
1. The pet therapies
Animals and people are not the same. We all know that. But we can begin the procedure by giving them pet therapies. It is simple and fulfilling for seniors.
Pet therapies mean that seniors own a pet in their everyday lives. They take care of it. The pet gives them the idea of ownership and having someone as their own. It can relieve a lot of stress and anxiety as well. Also, pets can increase daily physical activities.
Pets give everyone a purpose to live happily.
2. Video conversations
It is the caregiver’s duty to ensure that seniors communicate with their loved ones. But it doesn’t always have to be physical meets. So what do you do in such situations?
We live in a digital era. So, video calling is a very common solution to this problem. As caregivers, you can arrange video conversations with their loved ones from time to time.
Long-distance doesn’t really matter in today’s technology.
3. In-Home cares
In-home cares mean a wide variety of services. There are some that give constant services to the seniors. And there are also services that check on the seniors once every day.
In-home care allows seniors to interact with others. It enables them to move out with the caregiver and interact with the community. It is a great way to get out of social isolation.
4. Arrange transportation facilities
Seniors are unable to drive. They know how-to. But they just shouldn’t drive as it can be quite risky. And this is one of the primary reasons why they isolate themselves.
Not having proper transportation opportunities can make them feel that they cannot do things on their own. Thus, caregivers can arrange adequate transportation facilities for them. The services should allow them to move around and meet new and old people.
5. Therapy or counseling
Counseling can help best when the mental condition declines to worst. And surprisingly, these mental conditions can cause social isolation as well. So, mental health is two-way traffic. It can be the cause of loneliness, and it can be the effect of loneliness.
In such situations, a therapist can help a lot. The counselor can hear and understand the situation of older people. The older people will also feel heard. They will have a designated professional to tell their issues.
And eventually, it will be a great solution to the problem.
6. Joining social clubs or groups
Social clubs or groups are one of the best solutions to senior loneliness. It can prevent social isolation and loneliness among seniors significantly. And it is also a great way to do exciting hobbies together.
Seniors can meet new people there. They can communicate and conduct activities together. This can help them to lead a structured and regular life.
7. Social get-together meals
Eating together is a great ice-breaking activity. But seniors can feel isolated when they eat. And if they regularly eat alone, this can cause loneliness in them.
The best way to combat this situation is to arrange social meals. This can be organizing dinner parties. It can also be arranging restaurant dining together on special occasions.
8. Connecting with neighbors
Neighbors can remove loneliness from a person. If you connect with them, you can feel like living in a community. So, you don’t have to stay isolated from others.
As caregivers, you can ask neighbors to check up on the older adult every now and then. You can also arrange activities between them. But remember to do all these only when the neighbor is trustworthy.
9. Technology to the rescue
Technology can improve the lifestyle of elders. It is an influential tool in eradicating social isolation as well. For this, they need adaptive technology. The tools of adaptive technology can help seniors to engage in activities with others. Some of the tools involved can be as follows:
- Motor scooter
- Telephone amplifier
- Hearing aid
- Modified computer mouse or keyboard
10. Care for hearing and vision
Last but not least, hearing and vision care can be another great help to seniors. How can this help remove loneliness? Let’s look at it this way- hearing or vision problems can create barriers to interacting with others.
As a result, they need care services so that they can communicate with other people. Some of the tools of such services can include glasses, hearing aids and many other devices.
These tools can help seniors in staying alert and engaging with other members of society.
Top 4 ways to prevent loneliness in seniors:
- In-Home care
- Social activities and get togethers
- Pet therapies
- Technologies and transportation
Loneliness in seniors has some serious adverse effects. No person should be isolated during the last days of their life. But the good news is that it is preventable.
The 10 tips in the article will help you prevent loneliness in seniors. As caregivers, our task is to ensure that there are enough opportunities for them to interact with others. Also, make sure they have regular contact with healthcare professionals, use pet therapies, and have access to technology. This can help them lead a happy life.
If you or your loved ones are struggling with social isolation, BoomersHub advisors are here to help. Reach out to us for any service related to senior care.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to help loneliness in the elderly?
Here are a few ways to help prevent loneliness in the elderly:
- Encourage them to socialize
- Help them stay connected with the outside world by providing them with technology
- Encourage them to get involved in activities they enjoy, such as gardening, reading, or crafts
- Make sure they have regular contact with healthcare professionals
- Stay in touch and regularly check on them
How to comfort an elderly person with depression and loneliness?
There are a few key things to remember when comforting an elderly person with depression and loneliness. First, be understanding and non-judgmental. Second, be there for them, both physically and emotionally. Third, encourage them to stay social and connected to their community. Fourth, respect their comfort level and take things at their pace. Finally, if necessary, seek professional help.
How can technology reduce loneliness for homebound rural elders?
There are a few ways that technology can reduce loneliness for homebound rural elders. One way is to use social media to stay connected with friends and family. Another way is to use online video chats to have face-to-face conversations with loved ones. Additionally, there are many online support groups for homebound elders that can provide social interaction and companionship. Finally, there are many streaming services and podcasts, where seniors can enjoy movies, music, books, and more!
How many elderly people are lonely?
There is no definitive answer to this question but an estimated 14 million (28%) people aged 65 and older experience loneliness. The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) study suggests, more than 40% older adults regularly battle the feeling of loneliness, and it’s an issue that needs attention.