One of the main issues that typically affects the elderly is loneliness. The impacts of loneliness can have a significant bearing on our mental and physical health. However, most people remain largely unaware of the impact that loneliness can have on older people.
What are some of the risk factors that may lead to loneliness?
People will often find it more difficult to get out and meet people dependent on where they live. Therefore, living in isolated rural areas, or in buildings that offer limited access will make it harder.
Reduced Social Networks
As people grow older existing friendships become harder to maintain. This means that their social network becomes smaller. Therefore, reducing the number of people who they would usually chat or spend time with.
Another risk factor is physical or mental impairments, such as dementia. This can reduce social interaction and the chance to make friends. Moreover, loneliness can lead to depression which further impacts mental and physical health.
What are the warning signs when someone is feeling isolated?
- Interruptions in their daily routine, such as missing meals or getting up later in the day.
- Decline in personal hygiene because they have stopped looking after themselves.
- Interrupted sleep, which can cause lapses in concentration.
- Comments about feeling worthless or unwanted.
- Seeking attention by any means necessary. Even by being rude or verbally aggressive. However, it could just be that they are lonely.
Effects of loneliness on mental well-being
Social isolation can be damaging to peoples’ mental health and prolonged periods are unhealthy. Moreover, a lack of interaction denies people the necessary day-to-day activity that helps keep people active and happy.
There’s still a large amount of social stigma surrounding being lonely. The elderly are often reluctant to seek help. This is because in their mind, it’s admitting that there’s something wrong with them.
How can you help with loneliness in the elderly?
Many older people feel reluctant to ask for help, even if they need it. That’s why it’s important to do your part to ensure that older people have frequent and consistent social interactions. There are a number of ways you can help if you notice that someone is suffering from loneliness.
Have a cup of tea
It’s important to regularly check on your older relatives and neighbours. For instance, you could stop by for a cup of tea or a quick chat. Something as simple as this could help massively reduce loneliness.
Engage them in conversation
It can be something as simple as a quick chat before you go to work. Even a quick phone call once or twice a week is enough. This helps keep people from feeling isolated.
Get them online
Get them set them up on social media or with an instant messaging app. This is a great way to overcome physical barriers. Making use of modern technology can really help people keep connected with friends and family.
Get them out and about
The best way to meet people is by getting out of the house and doing things. Make it a regular part of their week, so they have something to look forward to. This will keep them physically and mentally active, which will improve their well-being.
Furthermore, loneliness and depression can have adverse impacts on peoples’ moods. This makes them irritable and more likely to have negative behaviours. Keep the contact consistent and be patient. Don’t expect every interaction to go perfectly. As their health and mood improves the interaction will become easier.
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