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Senior Loneliness and Isolation

November is Mental Health Awareness month! With the colder months ahead of us and the uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, we must keep in mind the mental health of ourselves and our senior loved ones.

elder woman having seasonal depression isolation

No matter what age we are, living a life of purpose, connection and joy are critical for our physical and mental wellbeing. For older adults, a variety of obstacles like vision loss, social isolation, mobility problems, and memory issues can make enjoying life more difficult.

Importance of Mental Health 

  • Socially isolated seniors have a 59% greater risk of mental and physical decline than those who do not experience social isolation (Forbes).
  • The health effects of social isolation and loneliness on seniors is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day (AARP.org).
  • Depression in the elderly is associated with an increased risk of cardiac diseases and the risk of death from illness (WebMD).

Signs of depression in seniors can include a change in attitude, self-isolation, weight loss, fatigue, or lack of interest in once enjoyable activities.

Combating Depression 

For older adults that want to improve their quality of life through enhanced mental health, there are a few things they can do to kick off their healthy habits.

Exercise – Seniors should always consult with a physician before starting any physical activity or fitness program. Seniors that are able, and approved, to exercise may see increased physical and mental wellness. Exercise has been proven to have a positive effect on the brain.

Connection – At any age, many people find joy in spending time with family and friends. Social isolation can be a problem for seniors that have mobility issues or aren’t able to drive, or who have loved ones that live far away. However, there are services that can help overcome these issues, including transportation help, in-home care assistance, technologies like GrandPad that foster connection, and other outside sources of help.

Volunteering – Sharing time and talents doing volunteer work can bring a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Many organizations have programs and volunteer opportunities specifically geared to older adults. Perhaps an organization that involves a favorite hobby like biking that may involve rebuilding bikes for children or gardening where you can help nature centers maintain their grounds.

Spending time on joyful activities – Everyone has a different interest or hobby that brings joy, whether that’s music, art, dance, gardening, or games. Seniors should try to spend time doing something that brings them happiness on a daily basis to improve their quality of life.

Keep Mental Health In Mind

While we need to protect the physical health of our senior loved ones, we need to be mindful of caring for mental health and wellness as well. Combatting isolation and staying active and engaged can make a world of difference in the lives of our loved ones.

 

 

 

References

Science Daily/McMaster University. “Working it Out: Researchers find exercise may help fight depression in seniors.” Web. 2019.

WebMD. “Depression in the Elderly.” Web.

Healthline. “Geriatric Depression (Depression in Older Adults).” Web.