Loneliness in seniors poses health risks. According to the National Institute on Aging, research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
Reasons for loneliness in seniors
- After we retire, we lose our social connections from work and may have difficulty forming new friendships.
- Health problems may limit our mobility, making it more difficult for us to get out and socialize.
- Our friends may stop calling on us if our health declines either because they don’t want to intrude or they think spending time with us won’t be fun anymore.
- We may lose a spouse, either due to death or divorce, leaving a big hole in our life.
- We may move to another city to be closer to one of our adult kids and their family but find they have only so much time to spend with us, leaving us with few other social connections.
- Long-standing friends or neighbors may move away or die, making our social circle smaller.
- The thought of trying to make new friends at our age – and opening ourselves up to the possibility of rejection – might not be appealing.
- We never had a lot of social connections to begin with.
You may be worried that an aging parent or relative is lonely and wonder what can be done about it.
One option is to explore community resources close to where they live. You may discover a senior center, a community center, an adult day program, a lunch club, or some other place with organized social activities that might help relieve their loneliness. If getting to the venue is an issue for them, look for a volunteer transportation program in the area. If possible, see if you can line up a “buddy” to go with them the first time to ease any anxiety they may have about not knowing anyone.
Perhaps it’s not just loneliness that’s an issue for them. They’ve lost a sense of purpose in their life as well. Finding them a way to share their talents or skills may help alleviate that. Volunteering their time may make them feel they’re making a contribution again.
Another option is moving to a senior living community. Senior living communities place a big emphasis on socialization and creating a sense of belonging for their residents. They generally offer a wide range of social activities onsite, making it easy for residents to participate. When they offer social outings, transportation is often provided. Residents may also have the opportunity to volunteer their skills and knowledge outside the senior living community, reinforcing their sense of purpose.
To learn more about how senior living communities counteract loneliness, check out our free Choosing The Right Community guide.