Loneliness, Social Isolation and Aging: The Silent Epidemic

Courtesy of Home Instead Senior Care®

In a time where social distancing has become the new normal, connectedness has never been more important. Research shows that social isolation and loneliness can have serious health implications on older adults ranging from a premature risk of death, to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and developing dementia.1 Additionally, loneliness in older adults has been linked to increased risks of hospitalization, visits to the emergency department, and higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.2

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults were at a significantly higher risk of social isolation, loneliness, and all the related health problems. Since the pandemic started, those risks have only increased. It is important to understand the significant implications these can have among older adults and ways to minimize them.

Top 8 Tips Gerontologists Recommend For Staying Connected:

1.Regular check-ins with loved ones can brighten their day and can help families stay in tune with their loved ones’ needs.

2.Families can also consider hiring a home care professional to support the individual with their daily routines while keeping them safe and socially engaged.

3.Encourage your loved one to keep moving. Now more than ever it’s important for older adults to stay active.

4.Plan a drive-by greeting. Drive by a senior’s home, apartment, or care community. If a senior is confined to a bed, work with staff to position him or her near a window. Hold up signs or messages from family and friends.

5.Resurrect popular hobbies. If your loved one likes reading, drop off or mail books and magazines they might enjoy. Some older adults like to knit and crochet, work crossword puzzles and craft. Try to help older adults engage with those hobbies, whether it’s ensuring they get the supplies they need or joining in on the activity via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. Encouraging use of technology like the senior friendly “GrandPad” that offers a number of ways to keep seniors busy with games and interactions with family.

6.Make mealtimes an activity. If seniors are still cooking for themselves, help them plan out their menus each week with their favorite healthy foods and make sure they have a way to get groceries such as through deliveries. Phone or Skype during mealtimes to help provide companionship, which can enhance appetite and the mealtime experience.

7.Watch a show together. Employ technology or even a telephone, sync up times where you can watch popular senior programs such as “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Family Feud” and “Price is Right” with them.

8.Take your loved one on a trip down memory lane. Encourage a senior to get out a scrapbook and talk about the photos and memories of events they represent. Or look through your own photos you can send to a senior and discuss what memory he or she has of the photos.

CRC 3328867 10/20