Loneliness can have significant adverse effects on the physical and mental health of older adults. Especially with the holidays approaching, it’s important to be aware of the signs of loneliness in older adults so that you can offer support and help them combat isolation.
We’re here to help by sharing the signs you need to know and the various ways you can help your aging parent stop or prevent feelings of loneliness.
If you begin to notice these signs, there’s a good chance your loved one is feeling lonely or isolated.
Seniors may withdraw from social activities, clubs, or gatherings they used to enjoy. They might also isolate themselves from family and friends, participate in social interaction even less, or become less responsive to communication attempts. This could show itself through reduced phone calls, text messages, or in-person visits.
Loss of interest in hobbies, activities, or things they once enjoyed can be an indicator of loneliness. This can happen because they may no longer find pleasure in their pastimes, they may no longer have others to share their interests with, or they may be depressed.
As a note, loneliness often leads to an increased risk of feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Seniors may display a persistent low mood and a sense of hopelessness. It’s important to keep an eye on this or reach out to a professional for support, as this can cause a number of health risks and health problems.
Loneliness has been linked to a decline in physical health, including a weakened immune system, increased inflammation, increased risk of high blood pressure, and a higher risk of chronic diseases. Those experiencing loneliness and isolation might also experience cognitive decline, including problems with memory, concentration and decision-making.
Loneliness can lead to a lack of interest in self-care and personal hygiene. Seniors may neglect proper nutrition, experience changes in their sleeping and eating habits, be less prone to grooming, and have trouble keeping up with housekeeping.
Loneliness has been associated with heightened perceptions of physical pain, which can lead to more complaints about aches and pains. Seniors also might directly express feelings of isolation, saying that they are lonely or feeling alone.
Adult children can make a significant difference in preventing and managing loneliness in their aging parent by becoming their support system and finding ways to help them.
Spend time with your parent regularly. Loneliness often stems from isolation, and simply being there can provide companionship and comfort. Engage in conversations, play games, or do activities they enjoy.
Encourage your parent to participate in social activities or join clubs and organizations for seniors. This can help them build new friendships and find a sense of belonging.
If your parent is open to it, teach them how to use technology to stay connected with friends and family. Setting up video calls, social media accounts, or teaching them how to use email can help bridge the gap.
If you live far away, make an effort to stay in touch through regular phone calls and video chats. This can help your parent feel loved and connected, even at a distance.
If your parent has mobility issues, help them with transportation to social gatherings, doctors’ appointments, or other events.
Offer to help with chores, grocery shopping, or home maintenance. This can make your parent’s life easier and free up their time for social activities.
Support your parent in pursuing hobbies and interests they enjoy. Whether it’s gardening, painting, reading, or any other activity, these can be fulfilling and provide a sense of purpose.
Cook or deliver homemade meals to your parent’s home. Sharing meals is a great way to bond and ensures they have proper nutrition.
Organize family gatherings and events that involve extended family members and friends. These gatherings can be a source of joy and connection for your aging parent.
Understand that loneliness can be challenging, and your parent may need time to adjust to changes and new social connections. Be patient and supportive throughout the process. You should also listen to your parent’s feelings and concerns; being compassionate and understanding can make a significant difference.
If your parent’s loneliness is accompanied by symptoms of depression or severe isolation, consider seeking professional help from a physician, therapist or counselor who specializes in geriatric issues.
Senior living communities like Waterstone at Wellesley play a vital role in combating loneliness among older adults by providing social and recreational opportunities, a supportive environment, maintenance-free living and access to various amenities and services.
Residents at Waterstone have a wide array of lifelong learning programs, social events, fitness classes and wellness opportunities that combine to create a sense of community. No matter your parent’s interests, Waterstone at Wellesley has everything needed for a carefree lifestyle full of great friends.
At Waterstone at Wellesley, this is also combined with dedicated assisted living support if or when it’s needed. Our personalized care continuum offers support, care consultations and daily planning, daily living programs, medication management, home health coordination with ancillary providers, as needed, and customized wellness plans.
Keeping our residents engaged and social is important to us at Waterstone at Wellesley. If you’d like to learn more about our lifestyle for your loved one, give us a call to schedule a tour.