While the frequency of loneliness and isolation among seniors has long been a concern, the current COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically raised awareness and sensitivity to the issue. Other communities are abruptly confronted with a new social reality due to pandemic effects, leading friends, family, and service providers to better comprehend the aging human experience and attempt to reduce its negative outcomes.
According to prevalence rates, over 30% of older persons experience loneliness and/or social isolation, with 5% reporting feeling lonely frequently or consistently. According to the National Institute on Aging, loneliness and social isolation can have long-term harmful impacts on older persons’ physical and mental health, including:
- Reduced cognitive ability
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Immune system deficiency
- Deterioration of cognition
- Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that affects people of all ages.
For a variety of causes, people might become socially isolated. Some reasons are growing older or weaker, the loss of their wives, husbands, and friends, limited mobility, illness, or leaving the workplace. Older individuals typically have limited mobility options and are afraid of burdening their family and friends. This may encourage individuals to stay at home or decline invitations to join family and social activities. To alleviate the impacts of loneliness and isolation, it is critical for social workers, family, and caregivers to compensate when necessary and provide elders with opportunities for social involvement.
Recognizing Isolation and Loneliness
According to research, social isolation and loneliness have a lot in common and are often used interchangeably. Socially isolated individuals have little contact with their social networks. On the other hand, loneliness is being alone, detached, or apart from others. An imbalance between desired and actual interpersonal contact can be defined like this. Even though gerontological academics and social workers distinguish between loneliness and social isolation, both negatively influence older people’s health and well-being and emphasize the benefits of therapies that address both.
Addressing Loneliness and COVID-19
Seniors’ loneliness and social isolation increased due to the previous pandemic, as they were forced to be apart from loved ones for extended periods. Patient isolation remained a top priority and a significant problem in residential settings. Senior programming directors were pushed to develop unique solutions to alleviate their clients’ loneliness and isolation because families could not enter the facility. Visiting from outside windows or from afar in outdoor establishments has become the new standard. Using technology such as Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, and Hangouts has been proven to be quite helpful in keeping at-risk persons socially active while simultaneously keeping them isolated. Rethinking how to provide group activities with acceptable social distance, or planning compassionate visits for people towards the end of their lives, offered an additional obstacle for individuals who value social interaction the most.
These issues can also affect older persons who live alone at home. As a result, it is critical to provide the adult with various opportunities to participate in meaningful social activities. It’s also crucial for loved ones living away to have constant, open communication with on-site caretakers or the older individual to ensure that, despite living independently, there remain a range of possibilities for social engagement.
How We Can Help
Caregivers can use a range of approaches to assist prevent social isolation. Caregivers, or even relatives and friends, can quickly help their loved ones be set up for success by emphasizing the issue and doing some proactive planning. Here are some suggestions:
Create a Schedule
Even if it is challenging, establishing a routine in one’s daily life provides a sense of stability and purpose. Set the alarm to get you out of bed at a reasonable hour. Begin the week with a simple plan that specifies daily goals or activities. Attending senior events, shopping, cooking a meal, going to the doctor, or taking a walk in a nearby park are all examples of activities that can be combined with housework. When preparing the schedule, be sure to include something fun and incorporate someone else’s company.
Get a Pet
Several studies have found that pet connections can help people feel less lonely by giving social support and company. Pet attachment or animal-assisted therapy has been shown to positively impact emotional well-being in studies. A caregiver can assist with pet care and upkeep so that the adult can enjoy the full benefits of having a pet while remaining stress-free.
Make New Friends
Another strategy to combat isolation is to make it easier for people to meet new people. Seniors can join a library society, a sports venue, or a knitting group to pursue their passions with like-minded peers. Adults enjoying activities can benefit from caregivers’ escort and companionship. Local possibilities to connect with volunteers willing to join and facilitate new friendships may also exist.
In today’s fast-paced digital world, older people often feel inept and alone in the presence of a younger, tech-savvy generation. Investigate chances for elders to master technology-related skills, such as email correspondence or social media usage. According to researchers, seniors who underwent a 3-week computer training course and online lesson reported a significant reduction in loneliness. Caregivers can also provide continuing support in this new situation.
We recommend taking a proactive strategy to battle loneliness and lessen its consequences, regardless of how you choose to occupy your week. You may access more caregiver resources and learn about several topical issues like medical help, personal care, and senior companionship on our website.
Contact us now to learn more about our team of compassionate and skilled personal caregivers who successfully assist families just like yours.