4 Ways to Protect Your Older Loved Ones From Loneliness
Senior Loneliness: Page 2
What can you do if an older adult in your life is growing isolated or lonely? Here are four simple steps you can take to help your loved one reconnect.
Help your loved one become more social-media savvy.
As younger folks know all too well, you don't need to leave your house to catch up with friends, follow current events, and find out about events in your area. E-mail and news sites are one way to do this, of course, but using a social media site like Facebook makes it even easier for an older adult to feel connected, simply by being able to see what others are posting. Facebook also offers plenty of opportunities to participate in "watercooler" discussions of current goings-on and share recommendations for books, movies, and music. Ask yourself: Don't you feel more motivated to get out and see a movie if your friends are talking about it? The same is true for your parent or loved one.
Encourage your loved one not to live alone.
It's common for seniors to want to "age in place" in their own homes, and you may hear strong opinions on this topic from your parents and older loved ones. But this may not be such a good idea, experts say; studies show that those who live alone are prone to a host of health issues compared with those who are married or living in a group living situation.
A Dutch study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry showed that people who lived alone or who were no longer married were between 70 percent and 80 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who lived with others or were married. And a recent study conducted at University College London found that social isolation -- even more than loneliness -- can lead to early death, even for those as young as 52.
Set up transportation options.
Ask anyone who works with seniors living on their own: One of the biggest factors behind isolation is lack of transportation. Many older adults no longer drive, or they fear driving at night or on unfamiliar routes. Call your local Area Agency on Aging and get a list of all the transportation resources in your loved one's area. If, despite your encouragement, your loved one resists using group transportation, consider setting up a taxi fund so that taking a taxi doesn't feel like too much of a splurge. Another possibility: Find a taxi driver in your area whom your parent feels comfortable with and set up regular appointments for your loved one's activities.
Help your loved one find support groups.
When older adults with health problems find support from others with the same condition, it helps with loneliness and depression. They may also get valuable information and motivation to seek help for their health condition. The University of College London researchers noted that the early death rate for socially isolated people may be due to the fact that they don't have anyone to encourage them to get help with health problems or to intervene in a health crisis. If your loved one has physical impairments, an online support group can ease anxiety and inspire him with ideas for ways to help himself. If your loved one is a widower or widow, a bereavement or grief support group offers a chance to share feelings as well as a place to meet others in the same situation.