We all know what it feels like to be lonely. It makes our world a little grayer, and happy moments a little duller since we can’t share them with someone. COVID has only made loneliness more prevalent due to the need for isolation, but even beyond the current pandemic landscape, seniors are particularly vulnerable to what many health experts call a “loneliness epidemic.”
What Contributes to Senior Loneliness and Isolation?
Senior isolation is unfortunately a common occurrence. Many older adults live at home alone, often after the loss of a loved one. Reduced mobility or lack of physical exercise can also cause seniors to become housebound or get out less. Without frequent visits from family or friends, feelings of isolation can sink in and keep you from living your fullest, most vibrant life.
Reducing Senior Loneliness & Building Genuine Human Connections
Here’s the most important thing to remember: you’re not alone. Your neighbor down the street may be having those same feelings of loneliness and isolation, just waiting for someone to knock on their door and say hello. Building genuine, human connections is one of the most powerful ways to overcome loneliness. Here are five ways to do just that and find joy, purpose and new friendships later in life.
1. Reduce isolation by getting to know your neighbors
Putting yourself out there to meet people in your community isn’t easy, but the benefits can be life changing. A 2020 global study found that “knowing as few as six neighbors reduces the likelihood of feeling lonely and is linked to lowering depression, social anxiety and financial concerns related to COVID-19.” Staying connected with your neighbors doesn’t require any grand gestures, either. The report also discovered that performing small acts of kindness like offering advice to new neighbors, helping bring in groceries or just waving hello as you walk by can reduce the likelihood of feeling lonely.
2. Fight loneliness by getting involved in the community
Everyone has unique skills and talents they can offer their community. Maybe it’s a green thumb, an artistic side or simply a passion for pitching in wherever help is needed. Volunteering is a great way to do just that while also making new friends. Search online or ask a neighbor about volunteering opportunities in your community like tending to local gardens, tutoring kids after school or helping put together care packages for those in need.
3. Prevent senior isolation by getting and staying active
It’s no secret that keeping your mind and body active has major health benefits for older adults, but if done in a group, it’s also one of the most effective ways to fight loneliness. Finding the motivation to get and stay active, though, isn’t easy. The thing to remember is, having an active senior lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym and work up a sweat every day. Activities as simple, easy and fun as joining a neighborhood walking group or, if immobility is an issue, working on a puzzle with a friend can help improve your overall wellbeing while also keeping you connected to others.
4. Feeling lonely or know someone dealing with senior loneliness? Ask for help
Sometimes the hardest thing to do when we’re feeling lonely is just to tell someone. It can feel like you’re being a burden. Or maybe you were raised to rely on yourself, not others. For those that bravely take that first step toward seeking help, though, there are all sorts of great resources available that can help you cope. The Social Isolation and Loneliness Outreach Toolkit from the National Institute on Aging and Connect 2Tools from AARP are good places to start. If you’re experiencing symptoms of senior depression alongside feelings of loneliness—like loss of appetite or lack of energy—also consider contacting a mental health professional who can offer guidance and coping strategies.
5. Move into a senior living community
Nearly one-third of all seniors live by themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s only natural that it leads to feelings of loneliness, especially those who have lost their spouse. The desire to maintain independence and remain at home as you age is common amongst older adults, but isolation can be a dangerous side effect.
That’s where senior living communities come in. Life in a senior living community not only promotes health and wellness, but also encourages socialization for seniors. From the stress-free lifestyle that leaves more time to pursue your passions to the wide variety of activities offered, opportunities to know your neighbors, get involved and stay active are abundant.
The Five Star Difference: Goodbye senior loneliness, hello life
At Five Star, helping our residents find joy, purpose and friends they can call family is our mission. Our innovative LifeStyle360 wellness program is designed to connect residents and combat loneliness by offering enriching and engaging activities for residents. Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what one resident had to say about how moving into a Five Star community helped her overcome her loneliness and live life to her fullest.
“This has been a huge blessing in my life. I found myself being very lonely and not eating well while living alone. My friends and family suggested I take a look at [Five Star] and it has been the best decision. I have made so many friends. I’ve gotten healthier with all the dining options. I go to many activities especially Bible study. Anything I need they take care of. The community is so clean and inviting. I never want to leave here and wish I had moved sooner.”
To learn more about how life at Five Star is can be the antidote to senior loneliness and isolation, call one of our senior living experts at (757) 797-6866 or find a Five Star community near you.