Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while for some it means giving gifts and carving out special time for a loved one, it can often mean the opposite for the elderly.
Seniors who don’t have anyone available to celebrate holidays with can feel the true impact of social isolation. According to The U.S. Census, 27% of seniors in the U.S. live alone, making them the largest group of independent living seniors than any other country in the world. And while maintaining independence is wonderful, it’s common that loneliness will occur. At its best, the elderly will reach out to a loved one and communicate their feelings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, loneliness can easily morph into becoming withdrawn, anxious, depressed, and even lead to the development of physical ailments.
Social isolation and loneliness in the senior population is a public health issue because the older population is more likely to have a shrinking social network. This could be the result of exiting the workforce, diminished mobility, losing a life partner, or children being busy raising and keeping up with little ones. How can we best support our seniors and help them feel more connected?
What can we do?
3 Simple ways to show the elderly we care
- Schedule visits.
Even if seniors in your life have not expressed feelings of loneliness, the better safe than sorry rule can apply here. Scheduling time to have regular visits. While it may sound like a small thing, the investment of time together is priceless. It will allow for seniors to communicate how they’re really doing and give an opportunity for visitors to have a window into their loved one’s life and assess if there are any needs not being met.
- Use technology.
In the last year, we have seen how visiting in person can increase the physical risk factors, which far outweigh the emotional factors in some cases. If there are circumstances that prevent visiting in person, consider using more technology. For some elderly, using technology can feel cumbersome and overwhelming, a caregiver or another trusted source can help pass those hurdles. While FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Meet may not always feel like an in-person visit, the opportunity to see each other’s faces, read expressions and hear voices is an excellent alternative.
- Thoughtful gift-giving.
You don’t have to send an extravagant gift to let someone know you care. You can send a card with a caring message, send a meal or hire a house cleaning service to come periodically. If there is an activity your loved one has hit the pause button on, consider signing them up for that activity, or even send them to a new one so they can extend their social network.
If you happen to have a caregiver, be sure to communicate with him or her so you know how your loved one is feeling, and how you can be of the best support to them.
Here’s to aging unlonely!
For questions about hiring a home caregiver to help you or your loved one, call us now to speak with a caring professional. No question is too small! We are waiting to provide local resources for you!