Getting older has many benefits. With more years on this planet we gain wisdom, and of course the ability to retire opens up much more time to do the things we enjoy. But sometimes the senior years can also be a time of great loneliness. A survey conducted by the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project found that as many as 19 percent of older adults, ages 62-91, report feeling frequent loneliness. With the loss of a life partner, the house can seem empty and too quiet. Not having someone to do things with might even keep some from going out and socializing. For others, poor health might be what’s keeping them at home, as physical limitations make it more painful to walk more than a short distance or fear of falling takes over. No matter what the cause, isolation in older adults is a significant health risk, as loneliness can lead to feelings of depression and poor physical health. Feelings of loneliness have been found to be a major risk factor for depression as well as showing a correlation to high blood pressure and dementia. And of course, when someone is depressed or not feeling well they are less likely to get out and socialize, which creates a vicious cycle feeding into more feelings of loneliness.
Fighting the Battle: Ways to Combat Loneliness
While it is easy to feel isolated and alone, there are plenty of ways to help senior adults fight those feelings of loneliness and live more active, social lives.
Employee a caregiver. For the truly homebound seniors, those who have decreased mobility and just can’t get out of the house for long periods of time, a caregiver can provide company and personal interaction to combat feelings of loneliness. Our care givers at Piedmont HomeHealth are well trained to provide excellent care when it comes to medication management and personal care, but our time with our clients is much more than that. Conversations over a meal, help with transportation to activities or even companionship during the day can bring joy to the lives of someone who was feeling lost and alone.
Pet therapy. Owning a dog or a cat might be too much of a responsibility for an elderly person who might not have the ability to properly care for the pet. That’s where therapy dogs can help. Using a therapy dog service will allow the opportunity to enjoy the love of a dog without having to provide full-time care. Pet therapy has been shown to improve mood, decrease feelings of loneliness and even lower blood pressure. For help finding a therapy dog in the Winston-Salem area, contact Elite Canine.
Volunteer. Getting out of the house is the first step in fighting loneliness, but it helps to have a purpose. Volunteering is a great way to bring a sense of purpose to your life. There are many different organizations in the Winston-Salem and Greensboro area that are looking for volunteers. Consider looking into programs at the local library, the hospital, or your neighborhood school. Volunteering can be as easy as reading with an elementary school kid for half an hour a week or eating lunch through the Lunch Buddy program.
Take a Class. Just like volunteering, signing up for a class gives you a reason to get out of the house. It’s also a great way to meet people and make new friends, which leads to more opportunities for socialization. Whether you’re interested in finding a new hobby or want to improve on a skill, classes are a good way to learn new things, bringing added benefits of keeping your mind sharp while combatting loneliness. For help finding a class that interests you in your area, call the people at the Senior Resources of Guilford or Senior Services in Winston-Salem.