Research continues to reveal how seniors in America are experiencing increasing amounts of loneliness and isolation. Furthermore, empirical data suggests it’s harming the physical and mental health of the elderly in our communities – including our relatives.
5 Ideas for Preventing Loneliness in Seniors
With millions of seniors living alone, it’s often up to us – friends, family, children, grandchildren, and neighbors – to step in and provide help and support where we can.
Here are a few ideas that work well when properly executed:
1. Encourage Social Interaction
Encourage seniors to participate in social activities and events, such as joining a club, taking a class, or volunteering. This can help them meet new people and form connections.
While many seniors prefer to “age in place” at their homes, consider the benefits that senior living facilities provide. Seniors who live in these facilities find it easier to socialize and engage with their peers (who are experiencing many of the same feelings and emotions).
2. Use Technology
Many seniors have difficulty leaving their homes, but technology can help bridge that gap. If you want to help a senior stay engaged, consider buying them a technology gift that allows them to expand their interactions with other people.
Video chat platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime are some of the most useful technologies for seniors. They can enable seniors to see and talk to their loved ones, friends, and family members, regardless of the distance. (It’s also ideal when you don’t have time to stop by daily to see a loved one. It allows you to quickly and conveniently connect from wherever you are.)
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can also help seniors stay connected. Not only can they engage with others, but it also gives them a glimpse into the lives of their loved ones. They can see photos, videos, and life updates on a regular basis.
Finally (on the topic of technology), there are online classes. These activities, which include things like language courses, art classes, and fitness classes, can provide seniors with opportunities to learn new skills, meet new people, and engage in activities that interest them. Research shows that when seniors have a purpose, they live longer, are happier, and enjoy better health.
3. Provide In-Home Care
Having a caregiver come to their home can provide seniors with companionship and social interaction. Caregivers can also help seniors with daily tasks, such as shopping, cooking, and cleaning, which can be difficult for seniors to do alone.
4. Pet Therapy
Studies have shown that pet therapy can help seniors feel less lonely and more engaged. Encourage seniors to adopt a pet or visit animal shelters to spend time with animals. Benefits include:
• Social interaction with pets helps seniors feel connected without being “needy.”
• There’s a reason pets, like dogs, are chosen as emotional support partners. They can help seniors feel less lonely. They also provide a sense of companionship and unconditional love.
• Research shows dogs and other pets help reduce stress and anxiety levels in seniors. Something as simple as petting and playing with an animal can help seniors relax.
• Petting a dog or cat is shown to improve mood and provide a release of serotonin in the body (which helps with feelings of loneliness and depression).
5. Support Groups
Joining a support group can provide seniors with a sense of community and a place to share their experiences and feelings with others who understand.
There are both in-person and online support groups, including options like AmeriCorps Senior Program, Friend to Friend America, the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, and more.
Look for Opportunities to Step in and Help
It’s time that we stop viewing loneliness in seniors as a “big picture” issue and start seeing it as a personal issue in our own communities. Whether you have a loved one who is experiencing loneliness in their elderly years or not, there are opportunities to step in and help.
From nearby senior living facilities and hospitals to church organizations and non-profit groups, there’s a huge need for people to help with their time, money, skills, and care. So consider this an amazing opportunity to support those in a place of need.