There are few worse feelings than loneliness. No matter whether you’re a child sitting alone at lunch or an adult settling into a brand new city, feeling alone can be a crippling kind of sadness. Humans need social support to flourish, and this doesn’t subside as we age.
This isn’t just our opinion though. Science has shown that loneliness can be a serious risk to both the physical and mental health of older adults. The good news is there’s plenty that can be done to alleviate this issue.
How exactly can loneliness harm us, and what can you do to prevent the damages caused by it? We’ve compiled some informative loneliness prevention tips so that you can best help your loved one.
Issues with elder loneliness
Elders are an age group with an incredibly high risk of developing loneliness. In fact, a 2012 study found that 43% of people over the age of 60 felt lonely. As one ages, their likelihood of feeling lonely increases. This can be due to family moving away, a partner dying, choosing to remain single and/or childless or seeing friends less often.
It’s not healthy for one to feel lonely for an extended period of time, and several studies have explored the dangerous side effects for older adults. These can include:
- A greater risk of dying. Loneliness is attached directly to poorer health outcomes, leading to an increased risk of dying. Those who are older and unmarried, lacking education and in a lower income bracket were among the most likely to be lonely. Health conditions found to be associated with loneliness include coronary heart disease, clinical depression and more.
- An increased risk of elder abuse. Loneliness can be a primary cause for failure to report elder abuse. Since lonely older adults are more likely to be depressed, this can add to the shame they may feel if experiencing this abuse.
- A willingness to engage in unhealthy behavior. Those who have smaller social networks are at a greater risk of eating less healthily, working out less and drinking more. In contrast, those with a rich social network were more likely to abstain from alcohol and smoking.
How can you prevent loneliness?
One of the best ways to prevent loneliness is to visit your loved one. Not only does this let you see how they’re doing, it can help foster positive memories between you both. Even if you’re living further away, you can schedule regular calls or FaceTime sessions so that you can regularly interact.
Follow these tips to make your next visit great for both you and your loved one:
- Don’t be afraid. This isn’t to say you’re fearful of your loved one, but you may be worried for them. Aging can be a scary process, and seeing your loved one age in front of you can make you anxious. Instead of dreading the changes that may have happened, choose to look forward to seeing them instead.
- Limit distractions. When you visit your loved one, you need to be present. This may seem fairly obvious, but with the distraction of televisions and cell phones, you may be focusing more on a screen than the person in front of you. Set aside that time knowing that it should be centered on them, not you, in order to get the most out of your time together.
- Time your visits appropriately. Springing a visit on your loved one may feel like a nice surprise, but could be bothersome if they already had plans. Assisted living facilities offer activities during the day that your loved one may want to attend, or it could possibly interfere with a doctor’s appointment. Check with them at least a week ahead of time so you can both avoid major scheduling conflicts.
- Be regular in your visits. By planning your visits ahead of time, your loved one can look forward to the visit and know to expect your presence. This also allows you to block off time for them, stopping you from thinking you “can’t make time” to visit. Carving out an hour or more each week is an easy way to bring you both closer.
If preventing elder loneliness is becoming an issue for you, contact Culpepper Place in Olive Branch, MS.
Our assisted care facility offers social connections in a safe environment for you or your loved one.