“I haven’t seen John at our card nights lately. Wonder if he’s doing okay.”
“Ever since Dad passed away, Mom doesn’t keep up the house like she used to.”
“I was excited for retirement. But I miss seeing people at work. I wonder if they’re getting on okay without me.”
Let’s talk about loneliness.
Loneliness has become an epidemic for seniors with 43% of older adults saying they feel lonely on a regular basis.
While loneliness can affect anyone, aging life transitions, health changes, and social and family structure changes mean those 55+ are especially at risk. And it’s nothing to push aside. Medical professionals say social isolation substantially increases risk factors for physical and mental illness, including heart disease, dementia and depression. The fact is, loneliness not only lessens quality of life, it shortens life spans.
So we’re starting this conversation and for those of you who are worried about your aging loved ones, we’re here to help.
Who is at risk for loneliness?
Anyone—those who live alone as well as those who live with families—can experience negative effects of social isolation. Loneliness can take years to develop or can appear suddenly. Some days may be good, others bad. Though not an exhaustive list, here are some big life transitions that may increase your loved one’s risk for isolation:
- Passing away of a spouse or loved one
- Divorce or separation
- Retirement - leaving a job
- Friends or family moving away
- A new move
- A challenging health diagnosis
- Other big life events, either positive or negative
What are the signs of loneliness?
Recognizing loneliness in our loved ones isn’t easy. Signs come and go, can be subtle, or not always apparent. Further, seniors might feel ashamed or uncomfortable talking about their loneliness or asking for help. Regular contact, visits and conversations with your loved ones can help you determine how your loved one is feeling. The following list are some common signs of loneliness:
- Significant change in personality - they just don’t seem as happy as they used to be
- Decrease in socialization
- Change in day-to-day habits, such as neglecting appearance or hygiene or not eating properly (weight loss or gain)
- Significant change in daily routine - letting the house “go,” fixation on material possessions and/or watching TV
How can I help?
Here’s the good news: there’s a simple medicine for loneliness—connection. Senior life transitions can be hard but building connections with other seniors or reconnecting with family or friends can make all the difference. That’s why we’re such a proponent of retirement living—friendly faces are always around the corner as well as organized social opportunities and professionals who can quickly identify major health concerns.
Knowing your loved one’s risk for loneliness is the first step. Our free loneliness assessment, provided by Daniel Russell, PhD, features a series of questions to help you determine a loneliness quotient, the current level of loneliness you or your loved one is experiencing. Take the quiz and receive our free guide on how you can help your loved one feel more connected.
Resources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4383762/ | https://www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/january-17/loneliness-epidemic | https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/dec/10/loneliness-dementia-link | https://www.webmd.com/heart-diseasenews/20160419/lonely-isolated-people-may-be-prone-to-heart-disease-stroke#1