People are spending more time isolated from others than ever before. Many of us live with family members and communicate with colleagues via video, text, and email. This is not necessarily the case for our seniors.
The most recent U.S. census data shows that more than a quarter of the population lives alone. That’s the highest rate ever recorded. Living alone isn’t a forgone indicator of loneliness. Similarly, we shouldn’t assume that a senior who lives with their life partner is not lonely. However, living alone can lend itself to undiagnosed loneliness and its partner, depression.
It is important to understand that your loved one can be lonely even when they have people coming and going in their life each day. When seniors suffer from short-term memory issues, their perception of how often they see you or other loved ones can be altered, leading to feelings of loneliness even moments after you’ve left.
Mitigating Loneliness in Seniors
1. Set the senior up with technology for video chatting. This won’t replace in-person interaction but, can help in the moments where they need a friendly face.
2. If a senior has in-home care they may feel the caregiver is only there for chores, not companionship. Ask the caregiver to schedule in time to sit and chat with the senior to help them feel heard and cared for. Not sure this is a valuable use of their paid time? Casual conversations can yield medical information that you might not know about otherwise.
3. Seniors can also feel lonely because they do not feel like they are productive members of society. Connecting them, even virtually, with your local senior center or religious organization can help them find a niche.
4. When we move back to a time of less isolation, ensure that your senior can get to small gatherings. Lack of transportation and their desire not to burden you will add to their feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Types of Loneliness
There are three types of loneliness. Understanding which one is affecting your loved one will go a long way towards knowing how to help.
As our seniors age, they naturally drift apart from social circles they once had. Perhaps they moved to be closer to you, leaving behind friends and activities. This is a type of loneliness that occurs when you don’t feel a sense of belonging to a group. Even if your parents are still together, there is a need for a wider social circle. Research senior activities in your area, even virtual calls, that might connect them with people outside of their home.
Emotional loneliness can hit those who have lost a partner and feel like they don’t fit into their social circle. Maybe their friends still have their spouses or live with their children. It is a feeling of lack of relationship or attachment. It can be felt the worst when your senior wants someone to talk to each day. It can be helpful to reconnect them with same-generation relatives that they might have lost touch with. Even emails and text exchanges can go a long way towards restoring their sense of self.
This is the most intangible of the types. It is a feeling of not knowing your place in the universe and most of us have experienced this at one time or another. It typically shows up in times of change when we don’t know what to expect or don’t realize that others are sharing the same life experience. Encourage your loved one to share their thoughts and feelings about aging. Try setting them up with others in their age or medical situation.
Home Care Tip
Loneliness doubles a senior’s risk of developing dementia. Set up a regularly scheduled call with your loved one. Make it a video call if possible. If your loved one needs help managing virtual modes of communication our caregivers can help. Give Us a Call. We are committed to keeping seniors engaged with friends, family, and each other! 615-422-7549