Start the year by taking steps to end loneliness
Particularly for older adults, loneliness isn’t just an emotional problem; it can also be a physical one.
A 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association compilation of many studies’ results concluded that a link between loneliness and fatal heart disease exists.
In Sweden, medical researchers discovered that the mortality rate of coronary bypass patients who’d checked the “I feel lonely” box was 2.5 times higher than other patients 30 days after surgery and was twice as high even five years later.
A Brigham Young University study covering more than 300,000 people found that loneliness was just as strong a marker for early death as alcoholism and heavy cigarette smoking.
Even when loneliness doesn’t kill, it can still cause serious damage. A Dutch study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry followed more than 2,000 older adults free of dementia. After three years, more than twice as many who reported feeling lonely had developed dementia as those who had strong social support.
Historically, seniors have been more prone to loneliness than younger age groups. That’s because for years and years before COVID many practiced involuntary social distancing.
Retirement, for example, removes elders from what psychologist and author Irene Levine calls “the most fertile place for making friends” – namely, the workplace. According to a Survey Center on American Life poll last May, 54% of respondents said they’d made most of their close friends through their own or their partner’s job.
But there are steps you can take to break out of the loneliness cocoon:
1. Realize you’re not the only one: About half of the respondents to that same friendship poll said they’d felt “lonely or isolated” during the preceding week. So if you’re lonely, don’t feel ashamed or guilty; those feelings can be barriers to (re)connecting.
2. Decide what kind of friendships you’re looking for: Would you rather chat with new acquaintances at a party, have fewer but deeper friendships, or share social media posts?
3. Take the first step: Don’t be afraid to reach out. Yes, you may be ignored or rejected, but what if you’re not?
4. Go out and talk to people: Just being in public can make you feel less isolated. And while casual chitchat with the barista when you’re out for coffee or the pharmacist when you refill your prescription isn’t Best Friendships Forever, it is social connection.
5. Establish a social routine: Consistency is important to connection. Interacting with the same people regularly can help friendships evolve.
6. Start small: Keep your social outings smaller and shorter at first, then let them grow as your comfort level does.
7. Be kind: A little kindness goes a long way. You’ll feel good, and so will the person you’re kind to.
8. Be patient: Seeds don’t blossom into beautiful flowers overnight. But when they do, the wait was worth it.
9. If you can’t get out, ask friends in: If limited mobility’s keeping you home, you can always invite friends over for coffee, cards, or a beer.
Even if all you need is someone to tidy up the house and cook for when you have guests or drive you to the supermarket for your weekly bridge club, Senior Insights can help. Your unique needs, however big or small they may be, are our priority. We’ve always believed that caregiving has to go beyond physical needs and tasks, to address each client’s unique, individual emotional, cognitive, psychosocial and environmental needs as well.
That’s why, before anything else, we conduct a thorough three-part needs assessment to determine what specific services a client needs – cooking, housekeeping, bathing and dressing, shopping, etc. Then, as a holistic full-service senior care agency, we’ll provide caring, experienced, reliable people to provide the exact kind of care that fits those individual needs and desires If you’d like to learn what a difference our person-centered, individual approach can make, please click here to contact us.