Senior Loneliness
Senior loneliness is in the spotlight due to quarantine and self- isolation by seniors. The Covid-19 pandemic is causing people to remain home. Usual activities like Senior Centers and other programs are on hiatus. isolated senior woman on phoneNot being able to go to your favorite restaurant, poolside, or even to your card game is causing older adults to be alone every day. Many have been practicing “social distancing” for a couple of months already. Because of the virus, most nursing homes and other communal senior residences are not allowing visitors or outside help in. Studies show that loneliness is as bad for overall health as obesity or smoking. Loneliness is a major factor in causing depression.

Need for Socializing
There is a connection between loneliness and aging. With advanced age can come illness and decreased mobility and this leads to isolation. Loss of a spouse, friends, living far from family also contribute to feelings and realities of senior loneliness because of less human interaction. Additionally, having a sense of control over one’s social life and interactions helps combat the distress of being lonely. This control has been largely eliminated as places and opportunities for senior activities and engagement are closed. Seniors aren’t having the chance to participate in regular social activities if they wanted to. So, they are more likely to experience emotional distress.

Even though many older adults have smaller social networks than younger people, many say they have greater satisfaction with their relationships. Other research points to a positive social benefit from more casual ties with people who aren’t close but are in our day to day lives. This can be the mail carrier, store clerk, bank associate etc. Human contact and interaction are beneficial to combat social loneliness even if the contact isn’t a close relation.

Technology Increases Social Interaction
Fortunately today, technology is making quarantining easier. Many seniors are in fact realizing that they need to learn some basic technology such as; Facetime, Skype, ZOOM to be able to see the important people in their lives. This means grandchildren and adult children in particular. Other online social networks are helpful. They can also move activities like games and hobbies online. Keeping the mind busy, interacting with loved ones and others mitigate feelings of loneliness, isolation, and despair.

Hiring a Regular Visitor
You may invite an elder relative to move in with family. If not feasible, hiring an aide/companion will increase socialization, interaction, and improved mental/emotional well-being. Speak with a private duty home care provider and ask what precautions they are taking during Covid-19. Aides who work in hospitals or facilities aren’t the best to have come to a parent’s home. All CDC guidelines should be followed and you should provide gloves and masks. Put in a protocol for hand washing; for the aide and your parent. We are all managing and decreasing risks. Many seniors have long had an aide to assist them. For those who haven’t had the need, this may be a good time to have a companion come in a few hours a day, a few times a week. We know social contact is important. It is best when there is a rapport and relationship shared. At the very least, they will have someone they begin to know to have a meal with, play a game, go for a walk and converse with.

If a loved one has any cognitive and/or emotional issues such as dementia, anxiety, depression, it is even more consequential to have a friendly visitor be with them if not daily than several times a week to help prevent any condition worsening.

Community Resources 

At the very least, more people in their life can call more frequently, order things for delivery, and arrange for the set up of a tablet or smartphone. Explore community organizations that either visit or make morning phone calls. Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager for visits is a good option. Also, consider starting physical therapy for balance and strengthening –  a “tune-up” via Medicare so that there are regular visits for a few weeks.