Human beings do not thrive in long-running isolation, regardless of age. For senior adults, the passing of loved ones and friends, cognitive and physical challenges, and family members who have moved away fuel a cycle of loneliness and depression that have serious consequences.
According to the National Institute on Aging, research has shown that social isolation and loneliness is linked 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. The AARP website connect2affect states there is a “26 percent increased risk of early death due to subjective feelings of loneliness.”
Loneliness can also make seniors more vulnerable to phone calls from scammers, who intend to defraud them by offering a little conversation and appealing to their need to have a purpose.
Socialization Through Community
There are many ways to reach out and fight loneliness as a senior.
One option involves resources in the community. Municipal community groups and senior centers offer a variety of activities, including hobbies, games, crafts, and exercise. They are places to gather, share, and enjoy being with people, as well as opportunities for volunteer work. Also, a senior’s place of worship may provide a place to be active and involved with others as well.
Seniors or their family members should research their local Agency on Aging for more information. These agencies also provide opportunities for people to link through social media.
If transportation is a challenge, there are resources available. This includes the Organized Alternative Transportation Service (OATS), which offers medical and non-medical rides depending upon the senior’s place of residence. Ride-sharing—connecting with other riders along your route for a discounted price—can help reduce costs. Lyft has partnerships with health care organizations and medical providers to make ride-sharing more accessible.
Some senior living communities and home health care services can offer transportation services, as well as medical and care services and companionship.
Cities, towns, and private companies offer a variety of transportation services that you can check find online.
Technology for Connecting
Self-help Virtual Senior Centers (VSC) enable people to connect with other older adults online. Participants can learn to use Skype (a voice and video connection between two or more people) and email, as well as talk with peers in virtual classes.
Smartphones now are available with simplified menus and enlarged text and icons for seniors. They allow seniors to connect on social media and search for information, and also provide an astounding array of features to assist them. They include:
- Medication reminders
- Quick and easy access to medical professionals
- Medical alert systems
- Preprogrammed buttons for emergency or frequently used numbers
- Enhanced volume and hearing-aid compatible phones
- Low-battery alerts that can text caregivers or friends
- Long-lasting batteries
Even if travel is difficult, seniors can remain connected to the world and the people that love them.
Amazon Echo and other personal assistant devices can control lights, thermostats in the home, and remind seniors to take their medications or call a friend or relative. “Ask Marvee” integrates with Echo via an online portal to allow seniors to immediately contact family members in case of emergency.
The Family Connection
Connecting with family members, no matter how it is done, is probably the most effective way to fight loneliness for senior adults. Whether it’s through technology, a simple phone call, letter or personal visit, communicating with loved ones on a regular basis reassures the senior that they are not forgotten and don’t have to face life alone. Family is key to helping fight loneliness as a senior.
Choosing an Independent Living Retirement Community can introduce you to new social opportunities and activities. Schedule a tour at a Bethesda community near you to learn more!