Recognizing and Preventing Elderly Loneliness

Life is meant to be shared and celebrated with others. When something good happens, our first instinct is to share the news with our loved ones. This is why loneliness is so detrimental to elder’s health. 

In a study done by The Journal of Primary Prevention, 43% of elders reported being lonely. Loneliness can cause various health issues such as increased risk of heart attack or stroke, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, cognitive deterioration such as dementia, and increased risk of mortality. In order to prevent elderly loneliness, it’s important to first recognize the causes. 

Causes of Elderly Loneliness 

Living alone doesn’t mean you or your loved one is necessarily lonely. There are many different causes for elderly loneliness. 

  1. Friends have passed away.
  2. A spouse passed away.
  3. They don’t want to be a burden.
  4. They’re afraid to go out and be judged or get injured.
  5. They have an illness.
  6. They can’t get around well.

Signs of Elderly Loneliness

It can be difficult to detect loneliness. Many elders don’t want to admit they’re lonely. However, there are several signs that could indicate loneliness.

  1. Decreased energy levels. 
  2. Disinterest in activities they used to enjoy. 
  3. Poor personal hygiene. 
  4. Under- or over-eating.
  5. Not sleeping well.
  6. Irritability.

Avoiding Elderly Loneliness

Often, loneliness is a result of social isolation. Luckily there many ways to reduce loneliness. Check out these seven tips to help you or your loved one live a happier, fulfilled life. 

Create a Weekly Phone Call Schedule.

If you’re worried an elder in your life is lonely, make a point to call them. It doesn’t have to be every day, but calling and talking to them even a few times a week can boost their mood tremendously. If you’re struggling with loneliness, each week pick different friends or family members to reach out to. Give them a call and catch up. They’ll be just as excited to hear from you. 

Eat Meals Together. 

If you’re caring for an elder, try to schedule a weekly lunch or dinner with them. If they’re able to get out of the house, take them to try a new restaurant.  Cooking with them can help their memory and help maintain full cognitive function. If you’re lonely, invite family and friends over for a meal. Cook the dish you’re known for. If you can’t cook, get delivery from your favorite restaurant. Eating meals together and sharing conversation is a great way to bond and socialize. 

Get a Pet or Plants.

Pets are great companions and can dramatically reduce stress. There are tons of different animals with different energy levels that can match what you’re looking for. If a furry friend is not an option, get something that needs to be taken care of. This could range from a goldfish to a plant. Having something to care for is a great way to feel independent. 

Schedule Annual Hearing and Vision Tests.

Not being able to hear during a conversation can be extremely frustrating and discouraging. Make sure you or your loved one is up-to-date on their vision and hearing tests so they continue to socialize. 

Learning and Teaching.

If you’re caring for an elder, ask them to teach you something. Maybe they know how to sew or play chess. This is a great chance for them to practice memory and skill retention. If you’re suffering from loneliness, try to learn something new. There are plenty of videos that can teach you different skills. Practicing and teaching skills is a great way to stay mentally sharp. 

Exercise With Others.

If you or your loved one is able to leave home, engage in low-impact exercise. This can include going for a walk, riding a bike, or taking advantage of local gym programs. The YMCA has an active older adult program designed to keep elders healthy and social. These are all great ways to stay fit physically and mentally. 

Utilize Technology. 

Technology can be intimidating, especially for someone older. It can also be a great resource to stay in touch with family and friends, get current information on the community, and find other resources. If you’re caring for an elder, help them get comfortable with their phone or computer. Show them how to use Facetime or Zoom. Teach them how different apps work. Send them pictures on days you don’t have a chance to call them. If you’re struggling with loneliness, ask a family member to help you use technology better.

Elder loneliness can have a very negative impact on you or your loved one’s life. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps that can prevent and reduce loneliness and social isolation. Taking necessary precautions to avoid loneliness can lead to a happier, longer life.