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Loneliness in seniors and elderly

seniors walking
seniors walking

According to U.S Census Bureau “America’s elderly population is now growing at a moderate pace. But not too far into the future, the growth will become rapid. So rapid, in fact, that by the middle of the next century, it might be completely inaccurate to think of ourselves as a Nation of the young: there could be more persons who are elderly (65 or over) than young (14 or younger)! “

Due to reduction in mortality rates, life expectancy today for women at 65 years is 20.5 years and for men is 18 years (centers for disease control and prevention). With an increase in life expectancy and reduction in mortality rates, seniors and elderly are at an increased risk for being lonely and isolated. University of Chicago conducted a study that linked loneliness to quicker mental decline and higher risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Social circle for seniors and elderly keeps getting shrinking due to the fact that the family and friends they once knew and enjoyed spending their time with are no longer around. Attending funerals for their family, friends or peers can easily make them feel depressed and isolated. Other factors may also contribute towards loneliness and depression in old age as they may be living alone or lack of family nearby. Many seniors or elderly are reluctant to create new relationships at this point in their lives due to physical limitations or being depressed. This pushes them even further in isolation and depression which significantly impacts their well being and quality of life.

Loneliness is a serious issue among seniors and elderly but there are ways to cope with this problem.

1. Personal caregivers:
If senior or elderly is lonely due to physical limitations for example not being able to drive or have mobility issues, caregivers can provide much needed services at this point in their lives. They can assist an individual with their daily care needs as well as provide companionship. They can help them cope with loss of independence in various aspects of their lives. A lot of times adult children of seniors or elderly live in different cities. Having a personal caregiver for their parents also gives them a peace of mind knowing the care needs are being met for their loved one.

2. Social Activities:
If transportation is the only issue and senior or elderly is otherwise is good physical and mental health, senior transportation services or public transportation can be good options. Now-a-days services such as Uber or Lyft can also be extremely helpful in providing transportation needs for them. By using these services, it can help them remain connected to the outside world thereby reducing their chances of being lonely and isolated. A variety of positive social support can provide physical and psychological wellness in elderly individuals.

4. Develop a hobby:
In the later years of life, it can be difficult to pass time. Taking up a hobby is an excellent way to keep one busy while enjoying the feelings of productivity and creativity. Seniors have a wealth of skills or abilities which they have learned during their course of their lives or they may choose to learn a new skill now. It could be knitting a sweater for a grand child or an arts and crafts project. Here are some hobbies for seniors with and without mobility issues.

Without mobility issues;
• Travel
• Clubs/Associations
• Volunteer
• Music/theater/dance
• Learning/teaching
• Reading/writing
• Exercise
• Gardening
• Enjoying outdoors with family/friends

Hobbies for seniors with limited mobility;
• Arts and crafts
• Playing cards
• Scrap booking
• Reading/writing
• Online learning/teaching
• Cooking
• Drawing/painting/sculpting
• Get some fresh air
• Watch movies, tv
• Listen to music
• Knitting/stitching

3. Social Media and Internet:
If a senior is not cognitive impaired, social media can provide a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. Now-a-days with the advancements in technology, grandparents who live farther away are able to stay in the lives of their grand kids more so than ever before. They can be part of the grand kids lives while they are growing up. Also keeping in contact with the loved ones may help to diminish the feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Internet also provides a ton of resources for online learning and games which can keep seniors busy. There are thousands of apps for mobile and tablets for education and entertainment purposes. It can easily give seniors access to news, information and entertainment. According to Pew Research Center, adults aged 65+ who own smartphones has risen by 24%, from 18% to 42% since 2013.

4. Adopt a pet:
Adopting a pet can have a positive effect on seniors and elderly. It’s easy to skip exercise or not be physically active during later years in life. However, dogs can help make their owners healthy by incorporating walking in the daily routine. Having a pet can also reduce stress and depression in seniors or elderly. It could be as simple as smiling while watching that wagging tail or enjoying having a friend to share one’s day with. Pets can also help seniors by providing a chance to meet new people when they go for walks resulting in a wider social network than before. Also pets provide additional sense of security for their owners. Thieves would most likely prefer not to break in a home which has a barking dog.