How to Combat Isolation and Loneliness Among SeniorsMarch 21, 2022
In your younger years, were you the life of the party, always surrounded by friends? Or did you tend to keep more to yourself with a small but treasured circle? Either way, your social connections played an important role in your well-being — maybe even bigger than you realized.
Now that you’re older, your social ties matter more than ever. Senior isolation is a common problem, and it’s a bigger concern than simply missing the joy of companionship. Feeling lonely over an extended period can take a toll on your mental and even physical health.
What Is Senior Isolation?
For a variety of reasons, you may not be as socially active as you once were. Your kids have grown and started families of their own; friendships tied to your career and parenthood faded with your retirement; friends moved away to enjoy retirement in a different city; you’re simply not up to being out and about like you used to be.
All these normal and natural circumstances often add up to senior isolation, which means you have limited social contact and infrequent interactions with others. Researchers estimate about one-fourth of adults are socially isolated.
How Isolation Affects Your Health
Senior isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. Research has also shown correlations between senior isolation and an increased risk for cognitive decline, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), and other health conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Your body’s response to emotional stress can closely resemble the way it fights off physical attacks like injury or illness. When your body is continually responding to a heightened level of distress, your immune system suffers and you may experience chronic inflammation, which is thought to be a risk factor for numerous health conditions. Additionally, people who are socially isolated may develop unhealthy lifestyle habits, like less physical activity and poor sleep schedules.
Ideas and Activities for Isolated Seniors
Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome senior isolation. These suggestions can help prevent social isolation and improve the quality of life for lonely seniors.
Explore a new hobby. Learning a new skill or pursuing a lifelong passion gives you personal pride and a sense of accomplishment. Hobbies might be for pleasure or more practical purposes, like a cooking class for seniors where you can learn how to prepare easy and nutritious meals for one. If you explore those interests in a class, you’ll have the added benefit of meeting people with whom you share common interests.
Stay connected with loved ones. Even when they’re scattered across the country, your loved ones are never further than a phone call away. Even better, technology makes it simple to chat through video. That’s great for watching little ones grow when the miles separate you, but it’s also a terrific advantage when you can see facial expressions and read body language. Social media, texting, and even traditional cards and letters are also all good ways to keep connections strong when miles separate you from friends and family.
Focus on wellness. You can counter the mental and physical effects of senior loneliness by taking charge of your well-being. Make plans to meet a friend for a walk each week, and compare notes on your nutrition to keep each other accountable. Another option is joining a fitness club where you can step up your physical activity, such as taking group classes where you can meet others at a similar place in their fitness journey. If your nutrition or sleep are suffering, talk to your doctor about resources that can help you get back on track.
Support a worthy cause. Giving back to the community offers intrinsic rewards, but it’s also a way to connect with others while you donate your time or talents to a philanthropic organization. If you’re not sure what kind of volunteer options are available in your community, consider reaching out to your local senior services program. You could also contact groups that represent causes close to your heart, such as an animal shelter or food pantry.
Surround yourself with potential friends. Living alone is a major contributor to senior isolation. Moving to a senior living community puts you close to others in the same stage of life who can also benefit from companionship. If you tend to be a little shy, take heart in knowing most communities offer activities and programs that make it easy to meet your neighbors and build social ties close to home.
With all the resources available to help you lead an enriching and fulfilling life, you’ll be able to leave any feelings of loneliness behind. Focus on a brighter future by checking out our Oaks Senior Living communities near Atlanta. Contact us today for more information.