Senior loneliness has become somewhat of a pandemic for our aging population. According to a study from Pew Research, 27 percent of adults in the U.S. ages 60 and older live alone and older women are twice as likely as older men to live alone. The risks of social isolation for our senior community can take a large toll on both one’s mental and physical health.
While many seniors express a desire to maintain their independence it’s important to recognize the signs of senior loneliness.
4 Signs of Senior Loneliness
Following are some helpful details on the signs to look out for and help determine if a loved one or friend may be experiencing senior loneliness:
Research suggests that sleep is impacted more in a person with feelings of loneliness. If you know a senior that is experiencing difficulties sleeping or is constantly tired, try to talk with them about how they’re spending their day and structuring their time. You may learn that a lack of socializing with others or loneliness is a contributing factor or an underlying issue.
Lack of appetite
A change in appetite is pretty common for a lot of seniors but if you notice that your loved one is eating less and less it could be an indicator that they’re feeling lonely.
Shift in frequency of phone calls
Reaching out to speak more often is a common sign, but a decrease in communication is too. It’s important to pay attention to the calling patterns and to listen to a loved one’s tone of voice.
Seniors with mobility issues sometimes have a hard time asking for help getting around. They fear they may be a burden, or they may be too proud to ask for assistance. Whether it’s due to a loss of the ability to drive themselves or the result of a physical ailment, mobility issues are often a big contributor to senior loneliness.
How to help a senior experiencing loneliness
Here are a few simple steps that you can take to help a senior neighbor, friend or loved one that is displaying signs of loneliness:
Pick a set day each week to call and check-in. Whether it’s in-person, by telephone, FaceTime or Skype, dedicate an assigned day and time each week to reach out and make contact.
Help with meals
Ensure they have adequate access to food. Consider bringing over a meal and joining them once a week or setting up a food delivery service on their behalf to ensure the senior is eating and getting the nutrition they need.
Encourage social activities
Locate a local senior center that hosts activities and social events for small groups (if safe and appropriate). Provide opportunities to connect others. Staying socially active through senior organizations, taking classes and volunteering are valuable resources for helping our aging population combat loneliness and come together.
If you think your loved one is experiencing senior loneliness know that there are ways to alleviate the issue. It’s important to have an open dialogue and plan to prevent the issue from becoming any bigger or causing further concern. Senior loneliness does not need to plague our aging population. We can and should act to protect our elderly and their health.