Loneliness can affect anyone, but older adults are especially prone to suffering. This was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when many elderly individuals avoided socializing for health reasons and therefore increased their risks of loneliness.
Interventions designed to combat loneliness should address underlying determinants of health, such as lack of mobility or diet issues. Funding sources should include Medicare and Medicaid.
1. Connect with a Therapist
Loneliness can be a frustrating cycle for older adults. Over time, friends and family may become less accessible, as well as mobility challenges, hearing loss, grief and other factors prevent them from reaching out to others.
Seniors at risk of loneliness may benefit from seeking guidance from a counselor to develop healthy ways of connecting with others. Therapists may ask direct questions like, “Are you lonely?”, and help set goals to connect within four weeks – or recommend resources such as the Social Isolation and Loneliness Outreach Toolkit from AARP and Connect 2 Tools from the National Institute on Aging; additionally they may aid them in creating new habits which reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
2. Stay Active
Staying active is not only one of the best ways to improve physical health, but it’s also a proven strategy against loneliness. Encourage your loved ones to seize every opportunity to engage with people around them – even if that means just smiling and saying hello when passing by on the street or shopping at their local supermarket.
Make exercise social by joining a group or pairing up with someone to exercise together, like walking groups. Joining walking groups provides both physical activity and an opportunity to meet new people while improving communication between members.
Make sure your loved ones stay hydrated; dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue that prevent them from leaving the house. A nutritious diet can assist them with this as well.
3. Find a Companion
One effective strategy for combatting loneliness is finding a companion. This could mean finding a roommate or joining an organized activity such as walking groups or board game nights together; these activities can both improve health while relieving loneliness.
Maintaining regular medical check-ups can also help combat feelings of loneliness and depression. Untreated issues, such as poor vision or hearing or urinary incontinence can contribute to feelings of isolation.
Studies have demonstrated the detrimental health effects of chronic loneliness are equal to smoking 15 cigarettes daily. Be vigilant of changes in behavior that might indicate you need a companion, such as increased time spent alone or decreased social engagement.
4. Get Tech Savvy
Although many older adults tend to view technology with suspicion, many actually use it and may use multiple devices – although sometimes learning how to operate one may prove challenging.
An effective way to combat loneliness and isolation is staying connected with friends and family through phone calls or video chat. If they live far away, consider sending photos and videos regularly of those you care about to keep the bond strong.
Dossy is helping fill this void with their user-friendly platform for effortless face-to-face communication, offering users a seamless user experience. While this solution might appear outside the traditional scope of health plans and providers, it serves as a prime example of how addressing social drivers can improve outcomes.
5. Take a Class or Seminar
As people age, their social circles can start to change as friends leave them behind, die or become less mobile. Furthermore, loss of employment and declining health may further contribute to feelings of isolation among older adults.
Loneliness and social isolation are often confused; however, they differ significantly. Social isolation refers to an objective lack of contact with others while loneliness refers to an subjective feeling of isolation.
One effective strategy to combat loneliness and social isolation is by engaging in group activities such as attending a cooking, art, language or computer class. Physical exercise may also help as it increases mental acuity and sleep quality; additionally, regular medical check-ups can prevent any health problems which might contribute to isolation like urinary incontinence or poor vision from worsening loneliness and isolation.