Loneliness, the feeling of isolation and disconnection from other people in our lives, is a common issue. Everyone feels it at one point or another, and we all have our own methods of dealing with it. Loneliness, as a mental health concern, can lead to more serious health implications that are compounded by the emotional drain of feeling alone. In elders especially, loneliness can be a major factor in cognitive and physical decline. Our geriatric care managers at Senior Steps, as part of their assessment and work with clients, pay careful attention to the social lives and interaction of elders and their peers and families.
However, loneliness is not an insurmountable problem! There are plenty of ways that we as caregivers can help our elders feel included and socially vibrant!
Join a club! Retirement communities and assisted living facilities almost always provide facilities for residents to get together and socialize. Whether its playing cards or a book club, or even a video game club, there are tons of ways for elders to get together with peers and interact! For elders who still live at home, there are still plenty of opportunities for group interaction, such as the classic Bingo night or a scrabble club.
Exercise! Walking in a group or just with friends is a great way to socialize. Even if it’s just a simple walk around the neighborhood, the active movement of walking can inspire some great conversation (even if it’s just complaining about hating exercise!)
Family visits! One of the great foundations of our lives is of course our family. As we get older and our children begin to move off and have their own lives, there is of course less face-to-face interaction. Having a 37-year old is a lot different than having a 7-year old, after all. But the chit-chat between family members doesn’t have to stop! Phone calls with family members can do so much for elders, as they catch up on their families lives, dreams, and aspirations. We always encourage families to stick together and socialize with their elders, especially if they’re no longer living at home.
These are some simple examples of how to maintain an active and healthy social life into elderhood, but there's an infinite amount of possibilities for interaction with other people. It’s important to remember that it isn’t necessarily a specific activity that helps keep away loneliness, it’s the interaction with others. Having consistent and healthy interaction with other people is a major part of maintaining a healthy and happy elderhood. So get out there! Make some friends! And keep in touch with your elder family members and friends.