Is your loved one feeling isolated?
As our loved ones age, especially if they’ve lost a spouse, they might find themselves spending more time alone. In fact, nearly 11 million people age 65 years or older live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And for some seniors, this isn’t a problem, as they plan regular outings and continue to socialize with ease. But for others, it’s a time where loneliness and even depression sets in, and family members become concerned.
Paying close attention to loneliness is important, because loneliness puts your loved one at risk for all sorts of problems, including cognitive decline and dementia. But if your loved one is struggling, there are plenty of options and tools that are available to help.
Volunteering. Isolation dissipates for most people when they feel like they’re part of a community. Consider your loved one’s special interests when thinking of volunteering opportunities. For example, does he or she like to knit? If so, making items for the local hospital’s pediatric unit may be the perfect fit. Does he or she enjoy spending time with children? Maybe volunteering at the library or local elementary school would be helpful.
Engaging with groups. When our loved ones were younger, busy with raising families and work commitments, finding time for special interests was likely a challenge. The senior years, however, are the perfect time to join a walking club, hiking club, book club or anything that strikes an interest.
Plan family time. If possible, plan regular times for family and friends to visit and say hello. A grandchild might need help with a math assignment, and grandma may be the perfect person to help. You might plan a regular night to have dinner, or time to bring coffee and weed a garden that needs attention. Even if relatively short, these regular visits, divided between family and friends, make a difference.
Check the community center schedule. They oftentimes have exercise classes and organized outings to local museums or plays. This can help your loved one meet other people who are facing similar challenges and forge friendships with them.
Looking at other options
There are times when our family member needs more attention and support, and in these cases, it might make sense to understand the available retirement living options. These arrangements have changed drastically from our grandparents’ generation, and they now provide not only greater comfort, but also increased social interaction and support.