Being Alone Versus Loneliness in Seniors

Did you know that loneliness can affect your overall health? Not only for seniors but individuals of all ages as well. However, in this article, we will focus on seniors. You don’t necessarily have to be alone to feel lonely. The definition of alone means by oneself. Some people want to be alone. In contrast, loneliness is the feeling of sadness, isolation, and lack of connection. For our seniors, this can drastically impact their psychological and physical health. As seniors age, most have likely lost a spouse, family members, friends, and/or pets. Many seniors find themselves experiencing loneliness due to death and illness in their social circles, poor health, and life changes. This can cause an increase in depression and blood pressure, a quicker decline in cognitive function, the risk of stroke and heart diseases, and the likelihood of death. All of the above ailments hurt the quality of life for our seniors.

How can we combat loneliness felt within our seniors? Everyone’s trigger may be different. However, we can get started by reaching out and talking with our seniors. Video calling through platforms such as Skype or FaceTime is a great way to connect loved ones and grandkids if possible. This really helps to supplement a physical connection. The reason it is important for loved ones to reach out to our seniors is that sometimes our seniors may see themselves as a burden to their children or grandchildren. If we initiate contact, they may be more receptive and eager to engage. We need to help them stay engaged and connecting with people, and more importantly, help them feel alive. Finding ways to connect at a retirement home, senior activity center, church, support group, and volunteer venue and finding companionship with a pet are just a few suggestions. All of these things may help improve our seniors’ social and mental states.

It is important that we encourage and identify seniors who seem withdrawn when moving into assisted living facilities, retirement communities, hospitals or even seniors who remain at home. It would be great if our seniors felt empowered to reach out and connect with others. Realistically, however, some seniors will try to connect with others, and some will not. We must be vigilant of the ones who don’t. It is important to remember that loneliness is a serious problem that can affect one’s overall health. However, we can all take actions to be more inclusive of our seniors to combat this issue.

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