Senior Living: Combating Loneliness

By Rhonda Kay Leonard

Anyone can feel lonely. It’s not surprising, perhaps, that people are at greater risk for loneliness as we age.  Some risk factors include living alone, experiencing strain in family relationships, lack of transportation to places one wants to go, inability to walk without assistance, having difficulty hearing and participating in conversations, feeling a lack of companionship and feeling left out.

The need for connectedness, intimacy and interdependence doesn’t lessen with age.  While society strives to reduce the impact of physical changes associated with aging and illness, we typically don’t strive to reduce the impact of psychological and social changes that lead to real and perceived loneliness.  According to a report developed by AARP, nearly half of older adults in the United States experience some degree of loneliness.

Here’s what care partners (givers and recipients) can do:

Find and take advantage of local resources.  Organizations like United Homecare Services can provide opportunities to connect with others through help to maintain the home for visitors, transportation to activities and respite for family caregivers who tend to put themselves last as they meet their family member’s needs.

Nurture relationships.  Work to reduce strain where it exists, and celebrate strengths.  Relationships take work, but they are the backbone of connectedness.  Strong relationships are the primary source one turns to when problems arise.

Participate in social activities or attend organized groups on a weekly basis.  Take a class, go to religious services, or volunteer.  Even playing a weekly game with others who would miss you if you were not there counts!

For care partners in relationships where dementia is a factor, caregivers need to develop communication skills to connect effectively.  Connect with the care recipient’s emotion rather than on a factual level.  Appeal to the senses: be easy to see, give hugs, play music, bake cookies or bread to put the calming aroma into the environment.  More information is readily available through the Alzheimer’s Association.

Social connectedness is not a luxury; it’s a need.  Let’s treat it with the same intentionality one would treat physical needs.

This story is sponsored by United Homecare Services. If you are interested in finding out more or scheduling a no-obligation consultation, call 503-433-8079.