Loneliness affects 43% of seniors and those feelings of loneliness can increase the risk of mortality by 45%. Feeling lonely could be more harmful to your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being obese.
With 28% of seniors living by themselves, it’s easy to see why lonely seniors are so prevalent. Once seniors retire, they lose those social interactions with coworkers, which adds to feeling lonely. The death of loved ones and friends can also leave seniors feeling lonely.
Loneliness can cause physical effects in seniors, including an increased risk of functional decline. Lonely seniors may face more health issues, including heart conditions and increased blood pressure.
Finding ways to make social connections can help combat loneliness and its side effects. Try some of these options.
1. Join Social Groups
Social activities give seniors a chance to interact with others while doing fun activities. Joining a social group gives you regularly scheduled events and meetings you can enjoy. Meeting with the same group regularly helps you build relationships and feel a stronger connection.
Senior centers often have various social options. That might include clubs for specific interests or regular coffee dates.
2. Volunteer in the Community
Volunteer opportunities help loneliness in the elderly in two ways. You get out into the community and interact with other people, and you help others who need it.
That act of helping out others can make seniors feel like they’ve made a positive impact. It can also encourage appreciation for what they have.
Volunteer opportunities can take place with a charity or community organization. You might help plan a community event or work at a charity event. Some people prefer to volunteer directly with those in need, such as mentoring kids or serving food at a soup kitchen.
Many assisted living or independent living communities offer volunteer opportunities to residents. If you live at home but have mobility issues, consider volunteer work you can do at home, such as knitting baby blankets for the NICU. You’re still making a positive impact, which can make you feel better.
3. Explore Interests
What hobbies and interests have you put off while raising your family or working fulltime? When you’re retired and on your own, you can spend more time testing out those interests.
Try dabbling in your hobby at home. Working on projects gives you a way to pass time and is enjoyable, which boosts your happiness.
You can also connect with others who share your interests. You might meet other people at the art store when you stock up on supplies. Or you might join a senior tennis club to connect with others who enjoy your love of the sport.
4. Try Animal Companionship
Adopting a pet means you always have another living creature around to cheer you up when you’re feeling lonely. It’s a constant companion you can always rely on to be there. Pets snuggle, play, and love you no matter what, which gives you that consistent feeling of being needed.
A pet can also give you a way to occupy your time. Taking your dog for a walk gets you out of the house, lets you interact with neighbors, and gives you exercise. Playing with or brushing your cat can bring you joy and take your mind off of loneliness.
Caring for a pet also gives you a sense of purpose. Your pet relies on you for care; this can be a rewarding feeling.
If having a full-time pet isn’t an option, consider being a foster provider for animal shelters. Many facilities house adoptable pets in foster homes until they find a permanent home.
Pet therapy is also an option. Some communities have pet visiting services where therapy pets and their owners make visits.
5. Use Technology
It’s not always possible to get out of the house, especially if you have mobility issues or you’re dealing with an illness. Contacting friends and relatives via technology helps you feel a connection, even when you can’t be together. Many senior organizations offer technology training to help older adults feel comfortable using phones, tablets, computers, and other devices.
Smartphones let you video chat with relatives, which adds the visual connection that makes it more special than a phone call. Voice-activated home assistance devices make it easier to get information, play songs, or entertain yourself. Tablets and computers offer easy access to Facebook and other social media platforms, where you can keep in touch with friends.
6. Get Assistance
Transportation and mobility can limit options for getting out of the house. Once you stop driving, you rely on others to drive you to social opportunities.
Most communities have local area agencies on aging, which help connect seniors with local services. That may include affordable transportation that makes it possible for you to get out into the community regularly.
Another assistance option is the Friendship Line from the Institute on Aging. The crisis line is available 24 hours a day for lonely seniors. The staff will also make outreach calls to lonely seniors on an ongoing basis to ensure they have connections that can help.
7. Consider Assisted Living
You may not need the skilled nursing of a care facility, but assisted living communities provide just a little help while letting seniors live independently. It’s a safer option than living alone and provides many social opportunities.
Assisted living facilities typically have private bedrooms or apartment-style facilities to maintain your privacy. You also get the family-like setting of other seniors living in the same facility. Residents also have regular interactions with caring staff members to help fight loneliness.
There are different levels of assisted living to fit different needs. Most assisted living facilities tailor each resident’s plan based on the help they need. This lets you remain as independent as possible while getting the support necessary to make everyday life easier and safer.
Quality assisted living facilities include a robust social calendar for seniors. Most facilities offer a range of activities to meet different interests. That might include crafts, games, exercise, clubs, Bible study, and outings into the community.
Help for Lonely Seniors
With technology and available services, lonely seniors have more chances than ever to connect with others. Finding the options that work for you can cut down on loneliness and combat the health effects that feeling lonely can have.
If the assisted living option feels like the right choice, contact us for more information on our communities.