Loneliness affects people of all ages, and there may be times when people feel alone, regardless of whether they are on their own or in a crowd or whether or not we are living through a pandemic. For seniors, elderly loneliness is increasingly problematic, and members of this group may spend extended periods of time alone, with little to no support from, or interaction with, their loved ones.
For those who have a lonely elderly family member or friend, it is important to understand the emotional and physical impact of loneliness. That way, people can provide elderly loved ones with the support they need to feel safe and comfortable, even when they are alone.
What Is Elderly Loneliness, and How Can It Impact a Senior’s Physical and Emotional Wellbeing?
It is normal to feel lonely at different times, but loneliness can quickly escalate into a long-lasting health problem, particularly for seniors.
Chronic loneliness can contribute to social isolation and may lead seniors to shy away from social-distance or online gatherings during this time or avoid them altogether. This may be because seniors are fearful that they may disrupt the fun and excitement of others due to their own health or mobility needs. It may also be the result of seniors’ inability to leave their residences independently, on account of physical limitations or a lack of transportation. There may also be times when seniors are socially isolated because they are unable or unwilling to use technology for phone or video chats.
Social isolation is an ongoing problem for seniors and members of other age groups. In a recent study of 20,000 Americans, researchers found that nearly half of respondents said there are times when they feel lonely or left out. Additionally, research indicates people who feel lonely are more prone to die early than peers who maintain social connections.
Without regular social interactions, people are more likely to experience loneliness and its physical and emotional side effects. In addition, health naturally deteriorates as people age, and seniors who are socially isolated may experience severe symptoms of loneliness that are compounded by health issues.
The physical symptoms of loneliness include poor sleep quality and inflammation that makes the body increasingly susceptible to disease. Comparatively, the emotional symptoms of loneliness include depression, anxiety, and stress, all of which can hamper seniors’ desire to interact with loved ones.
Is a Lonely and Depressed Elderly Loved One Cause for Worry?
Elderly loneliness can affect seniors who live alone, with family members or friends, or in a retirement community. The issue can lead to social isolation and depression that will not disappear on its own. Thus, if an elderly loved one is isolating from others or displaying signs of depression, it is crucial to seek treatment.
Doctors are available who can help seniors develop, implement, and maintain strategies to cope with loneliness. They can perform a medical evaluation to learn about a senior’s loneliness or depression, and how it affects their physical and mental wellbeing, then offer a personalized treatment plan.
To manage depression caused by loneliness, a doctor may recommend psychotherapy, medication, or other treatment options. A doctor may recommend seniors use a combination of treatments to deal with loneliness as well.
Loved ones can support an elderly family member or friend who is beginning a treatment plan to help manage depression caused by loneliness. By offering a helping hand, loved ones can show their support to a senior in need.
Tips to Help Loved Ones Dealing with Elderly Loneliness
A loved one coping with elderly loneliness and depression may inadvertently isolate. In this instance, connect with this family member or friend and share your concerns. Encourage your loved one to pursue medical treatment options and follow up with them after this has occured to ; you can even offer to show your support.
Along with medical treatment, there are many things that people can do to help boost a loved one’s self-esteem and limit the impact of elderly loneliness.
Making yourself available to a senior loved one can have significant positive effects. Setting up weekly or biweekly phone or video chats to check in with an elderly family member or friend can be beneficial for both you and your loved one. If elderly loved ones struggle with phone or video technology, you can teach them how to use it.
In addition to phone or video chats, you can schedule times to meet and enjoy activities together on a social distance basis. Learn about your elderly loved one’s interests and choose activities tailored to them. This helps increase the likelihood that your family member or friend will engage in these activities and enjoy them to the fullest extent.
There may be periods where life becomes hectic, and it is difficult to engage in phone or video chats or meet with an elderly loved onel. In these cases, you can write a letter or note and drop it in the mail. When your family member or friend receives your message, it is likely to bring a smile to their face and help them feel connected to you, even when you aren’t physically present.
It can also be helpful to encourage your senior loved one to connect with other people in their community. Search for community events and participate in hem together. You can even identify events for seniors that may allow your loved one to engage with people in their age group.
Finally, it may be beneficial to help an elderly loved one set goals, especially when it comes to managing loneliness and depression. It can be tough to maintain a positive outlook on a day-to-day basis, so establish small goals and work toward bigger ones over time.
A goal may be anything from calling a doctor to set up an appointment for a medical consultation to attending an actual or virtual gathering with family members and friends. Each goal is an accomplishment, and it should be celebrated as such. If a senior does not achieve a goal, there is no need to worry, either. Instead, try to look at the big picture and continue to help your senior loved one manage their elderly loneliness.
Take Steps to Help a Lonely Elderly Loved One
Elderly loneliness can become a long-term problem that manifests as depression, particularly if a senior lacks a support system. Luckily, people can help their senior family member or friend identify and address this issue. In doing so, they may lower the risk that elderly loneliness hampers their loved one’s physical and emotional health.
At Achieve TMS, we offer transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy, which may be used to help seniors manage depression associated with elderly loneliness. To determine if a senior qualifies for treatment, our medical clinicians perform a thorough medical evaluation. If we believe TMS is safe and effective for a senior, we craft a custom therapy plan and perform treatment. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, please contact us online or call or text us today at 877-261-3391.