Loneliness is a problem for all age groups, including younger adults. But in seniors, loneliness that can lead to depression and anxiety also increases the risk of dementia, cardiac issues, obesity, high blood pressure, and premature death. If you, your aging parent, or a family member are feeling isolated and alone, learn what seniors can do about feeling lonely.
Overcome Reluctance To Reach Out
The number of households made up of just one person has soared in the US, reaching a record high of 28 percent of all US households in 2021, up from 13 percent in 1960, according to the US Census Bureau. Living alone is far from unusual and is no reason to feel ashamed.
Social isolation is bad for your physical and mental health, so it’s time to address it head-on, even if it feels a bit uncomfortable.
Many elders are tired of hearing canned advice like “just put yourself out there,” “find a hobby,” or “join a book club!” But the truth is that those aren’t bad suggestions. What’s needed is the motivation to follow through and the gumption to overcome reluctance to reach out to organizations and individuals who can help seniors do something about feeling lonely.
If you look for them, you’ll find dozens of ways to get more involved in community activities. It could be making sack lunches for the homeless, distributing books to underprivileged kids, participating in a cleanup, or serving as an usher at local theater and symphony performances. Meeting new, like-minded friends is a bonus of getting involved.
If you’re shy about signing up to volunteer on your own, ask a younger family member or neighbor to join you. Soon, you’ll build up confidence and be ready to try new opportunities as they present themselves.
Become a Regular
We’re not suggesting you occupy the same barstool nightly! But odds are there are local grocery stores, hair salons, bookstores, and recreational facilities seniors visit frequently.
When you go, make a point of smiling at and learning the names of cashiers, gym attendants, and bookstore clerks. They’ll appreciate being recognized, and you’ll get some genial social contact out of your visit. The next time you come, you’re likely to get a warm greeting and some conversation along with your groceries or your workout.
If you have an older loved one or neighbor who seems lonely, invite them to join you for coffee or lunch. You may end up with some fascinating stories and a lasting friendship that spans generations. Younger adults should keep an eye out for lonely seniors. Ask to share a table with an older person in a crowded coffee shop or diner. You may be rejected, but keep trying.
While many seniors remain independent well into their 80s, some need help to remain safely in their own homes. Consider the benefits of home care for seniors who can’t get around easily, need help caring for their pets, or want companionship in their own homes. Gently raise the subject with your older friend or relative—you may find they’ll be relieved someone is willing to help them find a companion.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean accepting loneliness. Multiple generations can work together to reduce feelings of loneliness and increase social interaction for older friends and family.