Loneliness is a serious problem for some seniors, especially if they have mobility problems or health issues that make it hard to get out and about. Studies show that loneliness and feelings of isolation are linked to memory loss, stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure, among other problems. In fact, the AARP says that the health threat of loneliness and isolation is equivalent to smoking almost a pack of cigarettes a day.
Here, then, are some ways to combat isolation and loneliness and improve your or your aging loved one’s quality of life.
Make New Friends
It can be tough to make new friends when you’re older, but a local senior center or agency on aging can help. These and other organizations often arrange outings, classes, and social events for seniors. Joining a church, gym, or special interest club can also help seniors get involved in the community and meet new people.
Volunteering is a great way to get out and about, and helping others can go a long way toward combatting loneliness and other negative emotions. Check with your local agency on aging, or look online for volunteering opportunities near you.
Get a Pet
A dog or a cat can help reduce feelings of isolation. A pet can offer seniors more meaning and purpose in life, and pets reduce stress and promote physical activity. Walking a dog each day can improve your overall health as well as lead to social interactions with other pet owners.
Move Into a Senior Living Community
While some seniors do very well aging in place, others who live alone feel lonely and isolated, especially if they have limited mobility. Moving into a senior living community or assisted living facility offers numerous activities to combat loneliness, including group dining, planned outings, on-site events, or simply visiting with others in the hallway or lounge.
Engage with Social Media
Nearly 50 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are now on Facebook, which offers the opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones. Social media helps seniors stay connected to their kids’ and grandkids’ lives, and it can open the door to new friendships and social opportunities.
Combating feelings of loneliness and isolation improves seniors’ physical and mental health. Opportunities for social engagement abound, and while taking that first step can be daunting, it can lead to a higher quality of life and greater sense of wellbeing.