The Mental Health Risks Involved With Isolation and Loneliness in the Elderly
Human beings are meant to be social. Our connections with others allow us to grow and thrive. When we become isolated from others, loneliness often follows, and this can cause both our mental health and physical health to plummet. Unfortunately, this is a problem that has become too common among the elderly. As an individual grows older, their children likely start families of their own and may move away. As time goes on, an individual may lose a spouse or some of their friends to old age or other ailments. Before long, they may find that their social circle has significantly shrunk, and they are spending more and more time alone. It’s essential to understand the effects of loneliness on one’s overall well-being and know of various ways to help support the elderly in our own lives.
The Effects of Loneliness on One’s Health
Loneliness can wreak havoc on one’s mental and physical health and even shorten one’s lifespan. Some risks of loneliness include:
- An increased risk of developing dementia
- An increased risk of mental health problems like depression and anxiety
- An increased risk of suicide
- A higher chance of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke
- A higher chance of hospitalization
- Sleep disruption
- Poor diet
What You Can Do to Support the Elderly in Your Life
#1. Even if you don’t have any family members who are yet at the point of being elderly, you can still reach out to the elderly in your community. You can do this in small ways by dropping off a plate of cookies for an elderly neighbor or inviting them over to join you for dinner. You may also consider stopping by a local nursing home. The staff can help connect you with particular residents that may not have anyone else to visit them. Your visit can mean a lot more to him than you may realize.
#2. If you have elderly family members but don’t live near enough to visit frequently, you can still support them in other ways. Set up regular phone calls or Zoom sessions where you can connect with them and ask about what’s going on in their lives. If modern media is not for them, consider writing letters or sending cards. If you have children, consider asking them to draw pictures that can be mailed to them.
#3. Invite the elderly in your life to different social gatherings. Maybe your elderly neighbor has no grandchildren of their own and would appreciate an invitation to your child’s school performance or sporting event. Or perhaps they would like to share a cup of coffee with you and your friends. Even if they don’t end up accepting your invitation, the fact that you made an effort to include them will likely mean a lot to them.
How Elderly People Can Combat Loneliness
One of the biggest things that elderly individuals can do on their own to combat loneliness is to stay as active as possible. This will keep both the body and mind busy. If you are elderly and looking for ways to stay active and involved in the community, consider the following:
#1. If you live in an assisted living community or nursing home, consider taking advantage of the various programs and different events they offer. This can help you connect with others and forge friendships.
#2. Consider what different things you always wanted to do throughout your life but never got to because work or caring for children got in the way. Could it be learning a new skill, such as how to play an instrument? Perhaps you wanted to pursue your passion for art or music but never got a chance to. It is never too late to pursue these things, whatever they may be. One way to learn a new skill while connecting with others is to take a class. This can help you meet other people who have similar interests as you.
#3. You may consider doing some volunteer work in your community. Volunteering can boost your mental health by providing you with a sense of purpose and fulfillment and helping you make connections with others.
#4. Make an effort to reach out to those around you. You may consider hosting a dinner or game night for people from your church or neighborhood.
#3. It’s never too late to continue your education. Did you always want to pursue a degree but never get around to it? Now is your chance, and there are plenty of universities that offer virtual options if that is what you’re looking for.
As humans, we are meant to socialize with others, and it is critical to our own mental and physical health. Unfortunately, socialization can get more complex as people get older, leading to isolation. This may be the result of the loss of loved ones or because of family members moving away. Isolation leads to loneliness which can be very detrimental to one’s mental and physical health. It can even shorten one’s lifespan. It is important that we support the elderly in our lives by showing them we care by communicating with them through mail or by inviting them to take part in social gatherings. The elderly can also do things on their own to combat loneliness, whether by learning a new skill, volunteering in the community, or continuing their education. At Achieve Concierge, we want to make sure you’re living your best life possible, starting with your mental health. Call (858) 221-0344 to learn more.
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