Senior Loneliness has Become a Major Issue
A new body of evidence has accumulated just last year showing that senior loneliness has now become an epidemic in our country. Aging adults certainly aren’t immune from this epidemic. In fact, many aging seniors are experiencing loneliness at much higher rates than expected.
AARP released a survey in 2019 indicating that over 42 million adults in the United States beyond age 45 are suffering from some form of chronic loneliness, and a further 17 percent of adults over the age of 65 have become isolated. It’s important to note that loneliness and isolation are defined differently – the first being more of a subjective feeling while the latter is more measurable – however, the concerns of each are very similar.
What does Senior Loneliness look like?
Please note that simply being alone does not always mean that a person is experiencing loneliness or isolation. If your ageing parent is living alone, you shouldn’t automatically assume that they’re feeling lonely. However, there are numerous signs you can watch for.
Revealing that they don’t have anyone to talk to: Maybe the person you love wouldn’t outright admit that they’re feeling alone, but they may well be suggesting it. Whether this is as simple as stating that they miss their friends or haven’t been getting any phone calls, signs like these could signal that a parent is experiencing loneliness.
Seeking out companionship in strangers: Has a parent revealed that they have long talks with random people like postal carriers, store clerks or telemarketers? This may signal that a person is seeking out conversation and connections anywhere they can find them. And if a person is tech savvy, they may also seek out friendship on the internet.
Self-Neglect: If you observe poor cleanliness or grooming, a lack of appetite or you’ve noticed them giving up on regular routines, these could be signs of loneliness as well.
Why is Senior Loneliness Occurring?
Busier lives: Folks are just plain busy these days, and that usually means somewhat less time for visits and calls to older loved ones.
Sidetracked visitors: When a family member does come to visit, do they spend time with the elder, or are they glued to their phone or tablet? This kind of behavior may impede a seniors’ quality time with their loved ones.
Away from friends and family: If an older person has moved recently, they may have inadvertently left behind or become separated from their loved ones.
Transportation or mobility problems: Moving around becomes increasingly difficult as we age, whether this is due to health and medical issues or a lack of trustworthy transportation. Maybe an elder has recently had to stop driving and they haven’t figured out another way to get around town.
A new phase of life: Adapting to a new existence, perhaps post-retirement or a new change in living situation, will almost always make a big impact.
Consistent loss: As we age, it’s normal that we will begin to lose more loved ones. While it may be normal, this doesn’t make it any easier to handle for most folks.
What can we do to help a Lonely Senior?
Connect with them regularly: Make sure that you call, text, or connect with them on a frequent basis. Even if you don’t have anything new or exciting to say, even letting your parent or loved one know you are thinking of them can make a big impact. Who doesn’t want to hear that we’re cared for!
Get them online: If your parent or family member isn’t already using social media platforms or have an email account, getting them set up with a basic account and an easy to use mobile device may help them stay in touch with friends and family who they no longer see frequently.
Find activities: There are several programs and experiences that exist within your local community to provide additional social interactions for seniors. Whether it’s an exercise group or simple local outings, having events that they can look forward to really helps a senior feel connected.