Easing Elderly Loneliness: Tips to Support Your Parents

Anglicare QLD

Loneliness is a universal human experience that can affect individuals of all ages. However, when it comes to our elderly loved ones, loneliness and social isolation is considered a serious health issue due to the impacts on their physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

We’re here to demonstrate that you can do several things with/for your parents in their senior years to ease and reduce the risk of loneliness and enhance their quality of life.

Why Are Seniors More Prone to Loneliness?

Seniors are more prone to loneliness due to a variety of factors that come with the aging process; these include:

  • Loss of Loved Ones

    Seniors frequently experience the loss of family members, spouses, or close friends as they age. This is an inevitable part of aging and can lead to a profound sense of loss, grief, and loneliness. The absence of these significant individuals in their lives can result in a smaller circle, leaving them longing for the connection and companionship they once had.

  • Health Challenges

    Chronic illnesses, physical limitations, and other health demands can hinder the ability of older individuals to engage in social activities, travel, or participate in events. This limitation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness as they may feel disconnected from their usual routine and social networks.

  • Limited Mobility

    Limited mobility, such as difficulties with walking or driving, can restrict seniors’ capacity to engage in social activities or visit friends and family. Physical limitations can create barriers to participation in community events or even getting out of the house, making it challenging to stay connected and engaged with others.

  • Decline in Mental & Cognitive Health

    Cognitive decline, including conditions like dementia, can have a profound impact on seniors’ ability to connect with others and engage in social interactions. Memory loss and cognitive challenges can make communication more difficult, causing seniors to withdraw from social situations due to frustration or embarrassment, ultimately increasing their vulnerability to loneliness.

What Are the Health Risks of Loneliness?

The weight of the wide-reaching impacts of elderly loneliness on the individual and their family is often understated and overlooked. Research suggests that extreme feelings of loneliness and isolation in your older years can hinder good physical health and adversely affect your emotional and mental well-being. It is also important to note that studies worldwide are consistent in stating that loneliness is a risk factor for depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and dementia.

To put it into perspective, the risk of premature death associated with loneliness and social isolation is likened to other risk factors, such as obesity and smoking, as highlighted by AIHW’s factsheet on social isolation and loneliness. This only reinforces the urgency in recognising and addressing senior loneliness. Fortunately, there are a range of interventions that you can implement today to help combat loneliness in your parent’s lives.

Tips for Reducing the Risk of Loneliness in Seniors

As an adult, it’s understandable to worry about your parents as they age, especially when it comes to their social, emotional and mental well-being. However, there are several ways you can help your parent(s) combat feelings of isolation and loneliness and increase their overall mental and emotional health. These include:

  1. Remain in Frequent Contact

    Frequent phone calls, texts, or video chats with elderly parents offer a means of emotional support and connection when you can’t be there in person. This consistent interaction provides a sense of closeness and helps combat feelings of isolation and loneliness by reassuring them that they are cared for and not forgotten.

    This means not only calling them on special occasions but also on a weekly or fortnightly basis to share experiences and keep them in the loop about family updates and daily life. Doing so can help to maintain a strong emotional bond and mitigate feelings of loneliness that often accompany ageing.

  2. Visit In Person

    If you have the means to do so, your parents would love nothing better than to see and meet with you in person. It is a form of physical connection and intimacy that just can’t be replicated over the phone.

    Whether it’s just visiting them in their home or organising an outing to the shops, a movie or their favourite restaurant or cafe, these moments of togetherness hold immense value. Spending quality time together, engaging in activities they enjoy, or simply sharing a meal is a simple gesture that can do wonders in helping to manage feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  3. Teach Them Technology

    With recent technological advances, keeping in touch with your loved ones is easier than ever. Teaching your elderly parents how to use smartphones, tablets, or computers allows them to connect with family and friends through emails, video calls, and social media.

    By introducing them technology, you’re not only providing them with a means of staying connected with loved ones but also opening their doors to a wealth of information and entertainment. This fosters independence, reduces isolation, and helps them to feel more connected to their family and the broader digital community.

  4. Explore Community Engagement Options

    Encouraging elderly parents to participate in local community activities, social clubs, or volunteer centres fosters a sense of belonging and purpose. These provide opportunities for social interaction, where they can meet like-minded individuals, share experiences, and form new friendships.

    Joining in on community events breaks through the walls of isolation, creating a supportive network of peers who understand their experiences. By engaging with the community, elderly parents gain a newfound sense of connection and involvement that can significantly alleviate feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

  5. Encourage Them to Take Up a New Hobby

    Introducing your parent to a new hobby provides them with a fun new way to spend their time. Whether it’s painting, knitting, gardening, or learning a new instrument, taking up a new hobby offers elderly parents a means of self-expression and provides them with a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

    Not only does it keep their mind active, but it provides an avenue for them to connect with others who share similar interests. Doing so encourages them to join social clubs or participate in group activities relating to the hobby. Ultimately, this promotes connection with like-minded individuals, in turn combatting feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Fortunately, at The Village, we provide our residents with a myriad of opportunities for seniors to undertake new hobbies and share experiences with other residents.

  6. Consider a Pet

    Pets can provide companionship, love, and a sense of responsibility to senior individuals. Caring for a pet like a cat, dog, or even a bird can alleviate feelings of loneliness due to their constant presence and companionship. The routine of caring for a pet can also impart a sense of structure and purpose to their daily life. For this reason, why not discuss with your parent(s) about introducing a pet into their life?

    At The Village, we understand the importance of companionship and the positive impact pets can have on one’s well-being. That is why all of our villages are pet-friendly, so residents can bring their pets when they move in or choose to bring one home if they wish.

  7. Suggest a Retirement Village

    Retirement villages provide residents with a close-knit community of like-minded individuals and a range of social activities and opportunities to connect with others. If your parents are showing signs of extreme loneliness or social isolation, suggesting moving to a retirement village can be a proactive and compassionate step towards a more fulfilling life.

    These communities offer a secure and comfortable living environment and a vibrant lifestyle with access to various activities, events, and clubs that foster new friendships. Living in such a community can provide the social support and engagement that your parents may be longing for.

Help Your Parents Embrace Community & Connection At The Village Retirement Group

At The Village Retirement Group, We share your commitment to the happiness and well-being of your loved ones. We are here to provide the support, community, and opportunities for engagement that can make a real difference in reducing loneliness and social isolation. By implementing these tips and considering options like retirement villages, we can collectively work towards a brighter, more fulfilling future for seniors.

Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones.

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