The U.S. Census Bureaur reported that around 28% of seniors over the age of 65 are living alone, and many of those seniors living on their own deal with social isolation and loneliness. Unfortunately, loneliness comes with serious consequences for seniors, and studies show it’s associated with increased mortality and poor mental and/or physical health in seniors. The good news – there are ways to reduce social isolation and combat loneliness. If you or a senior loved one is struggling with feelings of loneliness, try using the following tips to promote connectedness and make seniors feel less alone.
Tips for Beating Loneliness in Seniors
- Get More Active and Focus on Health
- Be Creative Alone or with Others
- Practice Gratefulness
- Volunteer and Help Others
- Have Virtual Dinners with Family
- Add a Pet to Your Home
- Attend Places of Worship if You’re Religious
Tip #1 – Get More Active and Focus on Health
Unfortunately, social isolation and loneliness can result in an increase in risky health behaviors, including smoking, lack of exercise, and poor diet. If you’re feeling lonely, start focusing on your health, which includes eating a healthier diet and getting more active. Improving your health will improve your physical health, as well as your emotional health.
Focusing on your health and getting more active can also help you meet other people. You can head to a local gym or join a group exercise program, which gives you physical activity while connecting you with other people. Even if you simply go walking in your community, it’s a great way to get out of your home and meet other people.
Tip #2 – Be Creative Alone or with Others
Creativity offers an excellent way to reduce loneliness. Being creative is excellent for the mind, and you can choose what form of creativity you enjoy, whether it’s playing an instrument, painting, writing, sculpting, or something else.
If you don’t already have a creative hobby, considering taking a class so you can learn something like a new instrument or how to draw or paint. The great thing about being creative is that no matter what you’re doing, you can continue to challenge yourself and it’s so satisfying to see what you have made after a lot of hard work and effort. You can make creating social too, taking classes with others or simply getting together with other seniors who share your passion for creativity.
Tip #3 – Practice Gratefulness
As you grow older, it’s easy to begin thinking about changes you wish you’d made in your life, things you wish you’d have done, and people you’ve lost along the way. Ruminating on these things only makes you feel lonelier. Instead of looking at what you don’t have or what you haven’t done, focus on practicing gratefulness in your life.
Find things every day to be grateful for. You may even want to start a small journal, writing down a couple things every day that you’re thankful for. It can turn your focus from what you don’t have to all the things you do have, changing your entire mindset.
According to Psychology Today, some of the scientifically backed benefits of gratitude include:
- Opening the door for more relationships
- Improves psychological health
- Increases mental strength
- Improves physical health
- Helps improve sleep quality
- Builds self-esteem
- Enhances empathy
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Tip #4 – Volunteer and Help Others
If you’re dealing with loneliness, try getting out and helping others by volunteering. You have unique skills and so much life experience to share and contribute to your community. Volunteering can help provide seniors with a source of social connection, as well as providing more structure to their lives. Studies have shown that volunteering has the power to improve quality of life while reducing the risk of depression. Volunteering regularly can also boost your self-confidence and self-esteem, and not only will it combat loneliness, it will improve your personal satisfaction with your life.
Tip #5 – Have Virtual Dinners with Family
Getting together with family is important to combatting loneliness in seniors, but if family members live far away from you, this can be difficult. The answer – try having virtual dinners with family members or friends who live far away. With Facetime or Skype, everyone can sit down for a nice dinner together, even though you’re scattered around the country or the world. It’s a great way to see your family and you can interact with multiple family members at the same time.
Other forms of technology can also be used to help you stay in touched with loved ones. Email allows you to send regular messages to friends and family, and texting or messenger apps give you the chance to connect with loved ones immediately. Online groups and chats can also be a great way to meet new friends or find other seniors who are local.
Tip #6 – Add a Pet to Your Home
Adding a pet to your home can be a wonderful way to combat loneliness, since pets have the ability to be great companions. Having a pet can actually offer so much comfort that it causes a chemical reaction in your brainthat results in the increase of feel-good hormones and the reduction of the stress hormone, cortisol. Your pet can actually help you stay more active. You’ll have to feed your pet and make sure your pet gets enough activity. It can even give you a sense of purpose to care for a pet.
Pets provide seniors with unconditional love, always accepting people for who they are. And no matter what kind of pet you choose, a pet can make a great friend who you can have with you all time. When choosing a pet, just make sure you choose a pet you can care for on your own. If you don’t own the home you’re living in, check to see what kind of pets are permissible before making your decision.
Tip #7 – Attend Places of Worship if You’re Religious
If you’re a religious senior, work to maintain your attendance at your place of worship. Attending your place of worship regularly offers a social connection that is very beneficial to seniors. In fact, recent research suggests that attending your place of worship, no matter your religion, can offer positive effects on the mental health of seniors. It’s an excellent coping mechanism if you’re going through health problems and it offers social support that helps keep depression at bay in seniors.
Not only will you benefit from the social interaction of weekly religious services, but you’ll enjoy a sense of purpose. Seniors can also benefit from the watchful eye of others they attend worship with, since others may notice a decline in isolated seniors and step in when the decline may have otherwise been unnoticed.
Depression, social isolation, and loneliness are very common in seniors, but seniors can take action to prevent loneliness. By following some of these tips, you can deal with loneliness in a constructive way, finding ways to stay socially active and comfortable with your life. Remember, loneliness increases your risk of health problems and increases mortality, so start taking steps today to prevent loneliness so you can enjoy a happier, healthier life.