Isolation is one of the hidden afflictions senior citizens all across our country deal with every day. Losing the ability to drive, changes in neighborhood dynamics, divorce, death of a spouse or friends, and living long distances from family are just a few of the ‘normal’ reasons seniors find themselves dealing with chronic loneliness. Today, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across America, seniors are experiencing an additional level of social distancing and isolation in the name of safety.
It is proven that loneliness has a negative effect on a person’s health. It is a veritable breeding ground for several diseases including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Rates of stroke, hospitalization, and premature death are all higher among those suffering from depression related to solitude. Some of these health risk levels may even rival that of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.*
Fortunately there are ways to overcome and cope with isolation. Some involve a network of support while other strategies can be implemented by anyone feeling the emotional strain of being alone:
- Plan The Day – Keeping a regular schedule of waking, meals, bathing & dressing, and other daily activities helps to fight the seemingly endless blur of one day rolling into the next.
- Find An Engaging Activity – Cooking, reading, gardening, sewing, calls to friends or loved ones. These are just a few examples of simple activities that can keep your mind and body active.
- Exercise – This can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood. Even household chores such as vacuuming and dusting can be good for your body’s physique. Do what feels natural and listen to your body.
- Adopt A Pet – Taking care of an animal can combat senior isolation and loneliness in many ways. For seniors who are healthy enough to engage in physical activity, having a dog means going on walks and visiting dog parks—in other words, getting out of the house. Pets also serve as a social icebreaker and can make it easier for seniors to strike up conversations with strangers.
- Connect With Technology – Computers, tablets, and smartphones are great tools for keeping people connected socially and providing a window to the world. There are online classes, livestreams of museums and zoos, and a seemingly limitless array of options to fit each senior’s lifestyle and technological skills.
- Accept Help – From friends and family to neighbors and health care partners, it is essential that senior citizens use the resources they have to assist them in their struggle with isolation. Many organizations at the national and local level, such as AARP, the National Council on Aging, and your regional senior center are there to help.
Aging is challenging enough without facing it alone. We here at Burlington Health Care are ready to help you or your loved one in any way we can!