Helping Seniors Avoid Loneliness Through Community Connections
By Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
"Most of us desire to live a lengthy and healthy existence and look up to elderly individuals for their knowledge," said professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "Unfortunately, their longevity frequently results in the sorrow of surviving their partners, companions, and occasionally their offspring. If they are unable to sustain and establish significant new relationships as they grow older, they are vulnerable to debilitating loneliness."
"Loneliness refers to the emotional state of feeling sad due to a lack of human connections and interactions," points out Attorney Connelly. "Although social isolation can induce loneliness, being alone doesn't always lead to this feeling. It's important to note that not all individuals who live alone experience loneliness, and not all people who feel lonely are living alone. Loneliness can affect people of any age, but it's particularly prevalent among the elderly."
Risks Factors for Loneliness
Attorney Connelly shared that a study conducted by the University of California San Francisco showed that loneliness is a common issue among the elderly population. This can result in adverse health consequences, even leading to death. The Campaign to End Loneliness and the Centers for Disease Control have identified several risk factors for individuals aged sixty-five and above, including:
Being an immigrant who lost touch with loved ones from their home country.
Feeling marginalized by the wider community.
Being physically limited by illness or disability.
Lacking the financial means to do activities or visit others.
Grieving the loss of a loved one.
Not having meaningful outlets for their talents.
Being a full-time caregiver.
Struggling with incontinence.
Lacking the ability to drive or take public transportation.
Having a communication barrier from language, loss of hearing, or inability to talk.
Feeling depressed or anxious and lacking the motivation to join activities.
Overcoming Loneliness Through Social Connections
"Like most problems, recognizing and acknowledging that loneliness exists is the first step to overcoming it," stated Attorney Connelly. "If you're experiencing loneliness, try taking small steps to connect with others. Even a small positive change can help you reach out more. If someone you care about feels lonely, I suggest joining them in activities to help them get started. Look for opportunities to talk, laugh, cry, and share." Here are some other thoughts:
Consider joining a club, class, or religious institution to meet individuals with similar values and interests. If you are unable to drive, explore options such as ride sharing, public transportation, or online groups.
Consider inviting a friend or two to your place for a pleasant evening of sharing a meal, watching a movie, or playing cards together.
Participating in an exercise class designed for older adults could be a beneficial decision to consider.
It would be wise to contact a loved one by phone or in person. This will help you maintain a solid and positive relationship with your family and friends. It is essential to prioritize these connections and be available for them, as this can provide much-needed support and comfort during challenging times. So, pick up the phone or plan a visit soon, and enjoy the benefits of strengthening your relationships with those closest to you.
Consider offering your time and skills to a local school, animal shelter, or religious establishment. By volunteering, you can positively impact your community and the lives of those around you. Plus, it's a terrific way to give back and feel good about making a difference. Think about how you can use your unique talents and passions to help others and improve the community.
Consider finding a job that brings you joy to increase your opportunities for social interaction.
Remember that everyone needs physical contact too. Don’t be shy about asking for a hug. Consider getting a cat or dog to satisfy that need.
Attorney Connelly advises considering a change in living arrangements to improve social interaction. Even with deep affection from family, distance may limit frequent visits. Some seniors enjoy residing in residential programs with organized activities and meals, while others prefer living with relatives or in senior communities with independent homes. Being open-minded and conducting research can lead to new friendships and an active lifestyle.