In addition to adjusting to the physical changes and challenges that are a natural part of the aging process, many senior adults also face the twin risks of loneliness and isolation. A 2020 Pew Research study found that 27% of adults in America over age 60 live alone, which often doesn’t bode well for their health and well-being.
Research has shown that social isolation can harm physical and mental health in seniors. For example, a study by Brigham Young University suggested that loneliness is as deadly as obesity or smoking. At the same time, a team of University of Chicago researchers noted that people who are lonely experience significantly higher stress and blood pressure levels.
If you have a senior loved one who lives alone or spends long stretches of the day by themselves, there are things you can do to help them remain connected to the outside world and feel that they matter to other people.
Here are four strategies that will help:
1. Encourage visitors to stop and spend time with them.
If your senior loved one isn’t reaching out to others, you might need to step in and help fill their social calendar. Reach out to local family members, friends, and neighbors and ask them to stop by for a visit at your loved one’s home. Most of them will be happy to do it if they’re asked.
Few things bring more joy to a senior than spending time with their grandchildren or great-grandchildren who come to visit. While getting out together is always enjoyable, your senior will be just as happy sitting and chatting with the kids, catching up on what’s happening with them at school and other areas of their lives.
2. Use technology as a tool to keep them connected.
As a whole, seniors are much more comfortable with technology than they’re given credit for. They’ve experienced the advent of home electronics such as televisions, microwaves, and self-cleaning ovens, and many of them have had some exposure to technology where they’ve worked. Using a smartphone, pad, or computer comes relatively easy for them.
If your senior loved one is challenged by technology, it’s not an insurmountable challenge. Learning to operate smart devices like Alexa that are voice-activated is something most seniors quickly become comfortable with, and they’re also quick to pick up on using social media apps like Facebook and Instagram. Many in their age group also love to learn how to use FaceTime and Skype to stay connected.
3. Help them to volunteer.
Sometimes seniors don’t get out because they don’t have anywhere in particular to go. Helping them get set up and volunteering outside of their home gives them somewhere to go – with a purpose.
Volunteering is a great way for seniors to contribute to their community and make new friends. They can do things like help teach children to read, do communal gardening, or volunteer at a local museum. Many local philanthropic and service clubs also offer volunteer opportunities for seniors.
4. Get them a pet.
According to the National Institutes of Health, bonding with an animal sets off healthy chemical chain reactions in the brain, which immediately drops the blood pressure, heart rate, and stress level. Long-term interaction with a pet can also help fight depression, lower cholesterol levels, and may even help prevent stroke and heart disease.
Cats and birds that are calm can be ideal for seniors who are less mobile, while dogs make great companions for older adults who still enjoy walking outside or have a fenced-in yard.
Home Care Combats Senior Loneliness and Isolation
In-home caregivers not only offer assistance with practical tasks like meal preparation, light housekeeping, and transportation, but they also provide the companionship many senior adults need to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation.
A caregiver can get to know your loved one, learn their interests, and spend hours together doing activities your senior enjoys, whether it be reading, playing games, walking, or just sitting and visiting.
Contact us today to learn more about our full range of services, including companion care. Whether you need us a few hours a day or around the clock, we’re here for your loved one.