Senior Communities Specifically Combat The Nature Of Loneliness In Isolation
Winter, both literally and figuratively, can be a lonely time. This is especially true in someone living alone, growing old alone, without frequent visits and calls from friends and loved ones. Their heartache falls heavy on our shoulders.
The pandemic has dramatically increased physical isolation and the feelings of loneliness so suddenly, and for such a long period, that there is no way that these feelings aren’t damaging to our loved ones who are living alone. When evidence of loneliness arises, it’s essential to know how to combat the negative feelings and reach out for contact.
The Nature of Loneliness
Loneliness is personal and difficult to explain. Many people associate loneliness with being physically alone, but you can feel even more alone in a room full of people. We feel lonely when we cannot, for one reason or another, seem to connect on a personal level with another person. We need to feel understood by someone, and we need to feel valued.
Everyone is different in the amount of connection needed to meet their needs. People with close friends that they have continuous contact with, a family that they routinely see, and an active social calendar are less lonely.
Almost 30% of our elderly population currently live alone. Over time, so many people that they knew, that made them feel valued and safe, have been lost to time. It can be difficult for aging parents to accept nurturing and reassurance from their children because they are the ones who are supposed to be doing the nurturing and the reassuring. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken us away from our extended family members who need us and has replaced much of our face-to-face contact with phone calls and sporadic visits that can leave us feeling more guilty than when we arrived.
Many in our senior population have never used a computer, let alone Zoom. Phone calls are great when issues are discussed, gossip is shared, and laughs are had, but superficial calls may have little benefit when loneliness is concerned.
Our remaining time with our loved ones shouldn’t be this way. Do you know how to tell if your loved one is lonely in the isolation that still defines our day-to-day schedules?
Effects of Loneliness and the Pandemic
Loneliness increases a person’s sensitivity towards what they consider a threat, especially socially. The longer that they are separated from the community outside, the more the outside world seems too fast and too far away.
The coronavirus and the resulting quarantine are each major life events that cause both emotional and psychological damages in the elderly, many of whom already feel they are in a precarious place with their health. They need to connect with us, and we need to connect with them, meaningfully. And science has proven that we cannot exist without human contact.
Some of our loved ones may feel secure enough to express their emotions while others may not know how. Signs of loneliness in our elderly population include:
- Increased/Decreased sleeping hours
- Higher anxiety
- Neglecting hygiene
- Increased/Decreased weight, eating problems
- Increased amount of time online chatting with total strangers
- Making important decisions erratically
- Increasing mental health distress
- Excessive changes in ‘calming’ activities, such as shopping or showering
When our loved ones are lonely, they are more prone to falls, cognitive decline, and feelings of hopelessness. Loneliness can wreak havoc on your immune system and increase inflammation in the body. Serious heart events can happen, and dementia symptoms can worsen by up to 50%.
As their loneliness increases, their related problems increase and the less they will want to bother you. They are more likely to fall and less likely to tell you about it. Again, they are more likely to sink into depression and less likely to tell you how they feel.
The coronavirus has prevented us from physically being there to observe how they walk, how they are taking care of themselves, and gauge how they feel. They need to be heard, they need to be seen, and they need to be a part of a supportive community. The pandemic seems to have taken some very important options from us.
Combating Loneliness by Staying Active with Purpose
The most effective way to support your loved ones is to give them the community that they need to grow. Loneliness decreases with physical and mental activities that support healthy cognitive functions. The unfortunate truth is that, as much as we want to, we can’t always be there when we want to be. We have careers, children, and social lives that are already difficult to balance, and help is both needed and desired.
Your loved one needs, and deserves, physical activities, mental challenges, and friends to share their experiences with. For example, when many people hear about senior communities, their minds have already pulled up images of movie-quality nursing homes, complete with neglected patients, dirty rooms, and abusive staff. This simply isn’t the case in reality.
A senior-based community allows our elderly loved ones to live in an environment with a slightly slower pace, where they have plenty of activities to choose from and plenty of people to converse with when you can’t be there. Possible activities include, but are definitely not limited to:
- Structured exercise based upon ability: low impact chair exercises, pool aerobics, walking clubs, physical therapy, etc.
- Specialized groups, such as informal book clubs, singing groups, church meetings, etc.
- Crafts and hobbies
- Computer classes geared towards the elderly
- Volunteering for a cause
- Field trips with new friends: shopping, going to the movies, going out to dinner
Senior communities don’t exist singularly for older adults who can no longer care for themselves. Many people are now making a move earlier in their lives, choosing to live out their retirement in an independent apartment in the community, where life moves a little slower, they can get used to the environment, and where help is just a hop and a skip away.
Peace of Mind for All
Rates of loneliness and isolation decrease in senior communities due to their growing options for activities, ways to live independently, and resemblance to a fancy hotel, rather than a hospital. Fine dining, plenty of safe social activities, and wellness support all contribute to a comfortable, and nurturing environment.
Senior communities, and their related activities, specifically combat the nature of loneliness in isolation. A senior community can offer your loved ones many of the choices that COVID-19 has taken away from them.
Unfortunately, the pandemic seems far from being over. Right now would be an excellent time to contact us about our community and the full services we can offer you. Highland Park can not only relieve the loneliness in your loved one’s life, but they can also take at least some worry and responsibility off your shoulders. Freedom can be the greatest gift.