This is not a good time of year to be a senior facing loneliness. According to studies, at least 30 percent of seniors do – and it’s not just being bummed out by holiday hype.
The US Surgeon General’s office says a lack of social connection can increase risk of premature death as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, by 29 percent for heart disease, and by 32 percent for stroke. To say nothing of increased risks of anxiety, depression, dementia, and possibly more susceptibility to garden-variety diseases like viruses and respiratory illness.
But if you have an aging relative or neighbor, you also have the power to do something about it.
Check in. For people struggling with loneliness or missing loved ones, sometimes the thing they need most is companionship. So check in with your loved one or neighbor regularly. A phone call, text, or email can make their day, as can even a short visit.
Help with shopping. Especially if they can no longer drive or don’t know how to shop online, shopping can be overwhelming. So offer to shop for them or stop by to help them shop online.
Help them decorate. Having holiday decorations around can make a home feel more cozy and cheerful. But as we age, it can take more time, energy, and work. So offer to help unpack their ornaments, decorate their tree, or add lights in the windows.
Assist in cooking a favorite meal or recipe. Spend an hour or two helping them make a dish for a family gathering. Many feel useless or burdensome if they can no longer contribute as they used to. Or buy cookie kits and enjoy conversations as you decorate them.
Light up their life. Get in the car and take them on a Tacky Christmas Light Tour of your own.
Keep their mail upbeat. Aging seniors love opening and reading mail, so give them a change from the usual junk mail. So ask family members and friends to send cards, drawings, or photos. Or write them a handwritten message, update, story, or favorite memory. And help them write cards or letters to send out to their friends and family.
Include them in family or community activities. Drive them to church, family, or community gatherings so they don’t feel left out. Seniors love children, so be sure to include them when you can. And don’t forget that many would even love to help bake cookies or wrap presents.
Don’t forget the rest of the year. Seniors have many different needs, and social contact is just one of them. At Senior Insights, our three-part needs assessment defines what those needs are and helps us customize a care plan based on the potential client’s unique needs and financial situation.