As we climb the ranks of age, many of us wish to remain in our own homes as long as possible. Familiar surroundings have a way of making us comfortable and content and in fact, nearly 90 percent of seniors state they want to stay in their homes (according to AARP). Indeed, there are many emotional and financial benefits to this choice but there are downsides as well; the most concerning being loneliness and isolation.
At first glance to some people, loneliness might not seem like a big problem, but it is actually a very big issue. Loneliness is known as the “silent killer” in medical fields and affects roughly 8 million U.S seniors, especially those left alone after the death of a spouse or good friends moving away. Make no mistake, loneliness is an often unnoticed and untreated epidemic that can double the odds of seniors dying within six years.
The driving focus to remain in your home or move to a senior living community is to hold on to that priceless health and independence till the last moment. However, social interaction is also a proven facilitator to longevity and directly ties to physical and mental health.
Every year, much is written about, discussed, and debated on the myriad medical advances or theories or medicines to aid seniors in various challenges of aging. That’s all well and good but we must make more concerted efforts to learn better ways for seniors to engage in socialization, such as fostering the ability to leave the house on occasion and interact with others. Fortunately there are many positive and evolving senior loneliness solutions available to meet an array of individual needs.
CCRCs as a way of life
Continuing Care Retirement Communities are invaluable in bringing together large numbers of others who are at a similar stage of their lives. Many regularly scheduled events keep things lively, including social hours, cooking or hobby classes, fitness programs, and other interactive events. Many new and enduring friendships begin in CCRC environments and these types of socializations are extremely valuable to long-term health.
Dive into a new hobby
Hobbies at any age are highly effective in keeping us motivated and actively thinking. This becomes even more important for seniors challenged by loneliness. A hobby helps you set goals from finishing a woodworking project to knitting Christmas stockings to baking goodies for neighborhood gathering. Some hobbies popular with seniors include gardening, arts and crafts, reading and writing, all manner of puzzles, woodcraft, and practicing an instrument.
Make new friends
Arguably the most effective among senior loneliness solutions is the fundamental act of making new friends. General companionship is typically the first step and in itself goes a long way to breaking free of loneliness. Over the course of months or years, lasting relationships develop that provide emotional and physical support when you need it most.
Senior centers are excellent resources for organizing social functions and outings for seniors looking to share their days with others of like mind. Church groups, continuing education classes, and travel clubs are also great outlets for meeting people. Old friends and neighbors should also always be a go-to solution for loneliness doldrums. Reach out to an old pal or organize a gathering. A caregiver can help with the coordination and transportation for such outings.
If groups, clubs, and classes aren’t in the cards, caregivers can provide clients with a familiar face, friendly conversation, and a meaningful human connection. We have seen many of our caregivers develop meaningful relationships with clients, and we strongly believe that these friendships have a positive effect on their overall health and wellbeing. Learn more about our senior companionship services.
Another popular choice for seniors in the midst of loneliness is volunteering. Many seniors are chock full of life experience and specialized talents they can share with other people. This wins on dual levels; passing on knowledge others can use and putting the positives at the fore. Even seniors initially hesitant to commit to volunteering soon discover its benefits and it becomes a big part of their lives. Local senior centers, agencies, and hospitals are good places to learn about volunteer opportunities.
Add a pet
Pets have an incredible ability to change the lives of people of all ages. Seniors feeling alone are especially thankful for the unconditional love and acceptance offered by a pet. An effervescent little puppy or kitten ooze happiness every day and caring for it instills a renewed sense of purpose and meaning. Also see: Benefits of Pet Interaction for Seniors
Be wary of depression
Loneliness carries its own burden but it can also be a sign of depression, a serious disease that causes mental and physical deterioration, apathy, and feelings of despair. Signs of depression should be immediately addressed by a professional. For more information, see: 5 Symptoms of Depression in Elderly Loved Ones (& How You Can Help)
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.