The holidays are full of joy: gatherings with friends and family, shared memories of celebrations past, and new relationships to enjoy. But for home-bound seniors, this can be a time of year fraught with loneliness and sadness. You and your loved ones can work together to make this the most joyful season of all.
Loneliness is felt by more than merely those living alone – it’s estimated that 28% of seniors live by themselves, but even seniors who live with families or in communities suffer from isolation and loneliness. A key factor to loneliness in adults is a lack of close connections with others, producing adverse effects that extend beyond emotional symptoms, affecting seniors in both mental and physical ways. Loneliness is also a threat to longevity, producing symptoms and effects that rival smoking in their risk to physical health. Seniors suffering from depression or anxiety typically complain of feeling of lonely, and this symptom contributes to the decline of cognitive abilities.
There is good news! You can help your senior combat and prevent loneliness and protect their mental and physical well-being. Use the following tips to get started:
Maintain a Connection
It is as easy as making a phone call or sending a text to keep your senior connected during this busy holiday season. Check in with your senior often and involve them in your holiday plans. Ask your loved one to accompany you while shopping, or ask them to help decorate cookies or fill out Christmas cards. You can watch a classic holiday film together and start a wonderful new tradition with your home-bound senior. If you don’t live near your loved one, try using Skype or Facetime to reach out to them throughout the season. Ask them about holiday traditions they enjoy and make them part of your family celebration – this feeling of value and involvement is an important factor in building vital personal connections.
A busy senior has no time (or reason) to be lonely! Encourage your loved to get involved in activities at their senior living community, to join their church choir, or to volunteer to help with charity toy collection drives and other holiday programs – there are myriad ways to get involved with the community during the season. Use these opportunities to get your senior involved in the celebration of the joy and excitement of the holidays. Don’t hesitate to join them: you can help to reduce any anxieties or fears they may have about trying new activities, and you can create new holiday memories by sharing the experience together.
Include Their Interests
Most seniors have a favorite hobby or activity they would enjoy sharing with others. The talents and interests they have developed over the years provide a wonderful way to prevent loneliness and depression while keeping their brains engaged. Learn about their talents and the things they enjoy doing and encourage them to take classes, explore new events, and even accompany them in an activity. Ask your loved one to share special holiday recipes or teach the kids to sing a traditional holiday song. Seniors who feel that they are useful and can offer desirable skills have a sense of purpose and value that eliminates loneliness.
Support New Connections
There are so many demands on our time during this busy season, and it can be a challenge to meet the needs of all those you care for. Get teens and millennial in the family to help your senior to learn how social media sites can help them meet new friends and increase their base of support. Get to know some of your loved one’s friends and ask them to stop by for a visit. Use available local volunteer resources that can prevent your senior from feeling neglected. Ask about the events and activities your senior care community offers and ask the staff to help you encourage your senior to join groups and clubs. It’s impossible to be lonely when you are busy building friendships.
If you think your senior still seems depressed or lonely, ask if they would like to talk about their feelings with a professional who can provide treatment. Most seniors enjoy the hustle and bustle of the season and find joy just by staying connected, but if your senior is still struggling after all your efforts, treatment may be necessary.
Deck the halls and sing songs with Grandma! Get Grandpa to tell you how to he make his pine cone bird feeders! Get the whole family involved and have a very Happy Holiday!