Loneliness and Seniors

Two years ago, I read an article on seniors and how an alarming of them go an entire week without talking to anyone. Can you imagine going for days with little or no human interaction? How sad for these seniors who were once caregivers–parents who took care of their children, providing for them.

When my mother was in a nursing home, she didn’t experience loneliness like some of the residents because she had regular visitors. There were people who hardly had anyone visit them. They spent hours alone in their rooms and were only among others at mealtimes. What a sad existence for them. This is why I think it was a blessing when churches visited the nursing homes and sang hymns to encourage the seniors. The kind words and smiling faces of strangers meant a lot to them. My mother’s face always lit up when our family visited her. My sisters visited her every week. I didn’t go as often and there are times when I have regretted that. I take comfort that I was with her everyday in the week leading up to her death.

“A friendly ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ is something most of us take for granted – it’s just part of every day life, but these latest figures show that hundreds of thousands of older people in the UK will spend today and the rest of this week alone, with no one to share even a few simple words with,” says Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK

Loneliness is a terrible thing. It must feel like a solitary confinement for those seniors. And how much worse it must be during COVID. Age UK had launched a new campaign called “Donate Your Words” to help cheer up lonely seniors. The campaign encourages people to help fight loneliness by pledging to stop and chat with elders in their communities. I don’t know if they are still doing this because of COVID.

I encourage you to find safe ways to engage with the aged community. Let them know that they are cared for. Maybe you can leave a note of encouragement in their mailbox or I saw a show where a florist left flowers for seniors.

The National Institute on Aging offers these ideas for seniors to stayed connected during COVID while remembering to take steps to keep safe:

  • Find an activity that you enjoy, restart an old hobby, or take a class to learn something new. You might have fun and meet people with similar interests.
  • Schedule time each day to stay in touch with family, friends, and neighbors in person, by email, social media, voice call, or text. Talk with people you trust and share your feelings. Suggest an activity to help nurture and strengthen existing relationships. Sending letters or cards is another good way to keep up friendships.
  • Use communication technologies such as video chat, smart speakers, or even companion robots to help keep you engaged and connected.
  • If you’re not tech-savvy, sign up for an online or in-person class at your local public library or community center to help you learn how to use email or social media.Credit: Victoria Ruvkun
  • Consider adopting a pet if you are able to care for them. Animals can be a source of comfort and may also lower stress and blood pressure.
  • Stay physically active and include group exercise, such as joining a walking club or working out with a friend. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of activity a week that makes you breathe hard.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors.
  • Find a faith-based organization where you can deepen your spirituality and engage with others in activities and events.
  • Check out resources and programs at your local social service agencies, community and senior centers, and public libraries.
  • Join a cause and get involved in your community.
Sad Lonely Pensive Old Senior Woman

Older women suffer more from loneliness than their male counterparts. They are more vulnerable because they live longer and experience life changes such as losing a spouse and close friends, family members (children) moving away and the onset of debilitating illnesses. Loneliness is a cause of concern because it can lead to a variety of health problems among senior women such as increased risk mortality, depression, cognitive decline, dementia care, high blood pressure, a number of other conditions and in some cases, suicide.

Other factors which contribute to loneliness are:

  • The fear of becoming a burden
  • The fear of going out and incurring an injury
  • Difficulty communicating (i.e. language barriers and hearing problems)

If you’re interested in learning more about loneliness in seniors and its impact on them, click here. Find out what you can do to help the seniors in your area.

Sources:  StudyFinds; National Institute on Aging; Taylor & Francis Online; BMC Public Health; St. Paul’s Senior Services

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