Over the past two blogs, we’ve discussed loneliness in Alaska seniors and isolation our elders. The first post covered what senior loneliness and isolation are and how they develop in the senior population. The second discussed some of the physical and mental health effects that isolation and senior loneliness can have on seniors. Often, when people think about senior wellness, they typically think about physical health or how to prevent mental health illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Not as much attention is paid to mitigating some of the all too common and detrimental struggles that the elderly face, including loneliness and isolation. An article by mental health America listed some facts about seniors and isolation related depression here in the United States, and the statistics were quite shocking.

According to the article:

  • One out of every 17 Americans over the age of 65 struggle with some form of depression.
  • Seniors over the age of 65 account for over 20% of all suicide-related deaths here in the United States
  • There were various other statistics posted in the article, but these two stood out among the rest of the data.

In this third and final segment of a three-part series on senior loneliness, we will explore ways to combat loneliness in the senior population. These ideas or methods apply to seniors who are still living independently or who may be living in a senior community such as Baxter Senior Living in Anchorage, Alaska. Although incidences of isolation and loneliness are often reduced when an elderly family member lives in a senior living environment, it does not entirely go away. Regardless of your loved one’s living situation, it is essential to do what you can to keep loneliness and isolation at bay.

Listen and Observe

We live in a busy world today. The ability to communicate across oceans and with those who are far away is at our fingertips. Gone are the days when the only way to converse with someone was through a landline phone or “snail mail.” Sadly, this ease of communication has made most of us poor listeners. We often do not take the time to listen enough to those that we love. Taking the time to sit with an elderly loved one and listen to their stories, thoughts, or worries or joys can be the most important gift you can give to them. Encourage your loved one to talk about hobbies and pastimes they once loved. Use these conversations to help reawaken once loved yet forgotten hobbies or help them discover ways to adapt once enjoyed activities to the abilities and capabilities they have today. A prime factor in isolation is the inability to participate in activities or hobbies due to loss of movement, sight, or hearing. Helping your loved one to adapt former hobbies to their current-day needs may help to allow them the ability to participate more and reduce feelings of isolation.

Develop Strategies for Reducing Isolation

After learning more about what your senior loved one enjoys (or enjoyed) doing, it is possible to take this information and create a road map for reducing loneliness and isolation. If you learn painting or photography were once loved hobbies, perhaps you can help to find an amateur photographers or hobby painters club near their home (or within their senior community). If knitting or reading were enjoyable, but they can no longer do so due to vision difficulties, you could help find knitting needles or “tools” to help them renew these formerly enjoyed hobbies.

Participation in group activities or even solo hobbies helps reduce feelings of isolation in the senior population. As part of a group of individuals who enjoy the same hobbies, your senior relative can open doors for social communication and group participation that often are closed due to disability or fear of being a “bother” to the other group members due to individual or personal challenges.

Let Them Teach You

One of the best ways to connect with loved ones is to allow them to pass along knowledge. We all have things we are passionate about and yearn to understand better or to teach others about. Our senior loved ones have a wealth of knowledge they have garnered through their life experiences. For example, if your grandmother loves to cook, take the time to look through recipe books with her, or even spend time in the kitchen. If your grandfather loved trees and gardens, walk with him through a garden or even help to plant some flowers. These times not only have the potential to be excellent bonding experiences, but it can also help your loved one feel more “needed.” One of the common reasons for increased isolation and loneliness among seniors is the feeling of being “useless” or “no longer needed or wanted” by their friends and family.

Build a Bridge

Closing the generation gap is another key to reducing isolation and loneliness. It may also help to foster and improve relationships between elders and their youngest relatives. Grandchildren sometimes see their grandparents as boring (or even strange) since they often do not share similar interests or abilities. However, elders are a valuable source of wisdom and can also be a great deal of fun. Try to find ways for multiple generations of your family to be together whenever possible. Our family’s senior members have the potential to contribute a lot to families if they can (and allowed to) remain engaged. This engagement is also very important as research has shown that unengaged seniors will experience cognitive decline at a much faster rate than those who interact with others and remain mentally stimulated.

Remember That Thoughts Do Count

Urge other family members to and remember to take a moment to reach out to elderly loved ones regardless of whether they live independently or in a Senior Community such as Baxter Senior Living. Reaching out does not have to be time consuming or intensive. It can be something as simple as sending a card, bringing over their favorite meal, or checking in for a few minutes during the week. These simple gestures can go a long way towards making a senior family member feel connected to the rest of the family.

Contact Baxter Senior Living

For some Alaska seniors who remain living independently, no amount of effort will be enough to make them come out of their shell. This may come across as self-imposed isolation; however, some of life’s challenges may be too difficult for them to fend off. It may take a significant change for them to feel the desire to renew their interest in people and activities, including those involving friends and close family. While moving to a senior living community may seem like the best option, it will require research. For such a transition to be successful, it is essential to be sure the person and the facility are a good fit. It will also take time for your loved one to adapt to such a significant change. When loved one’s transition from living independently to living in a community, it can be disorienting. Suddenly they have neighbors, social groups, or even a roommate. You can help by providing gentle encouragement. The staff at Baxter Senior Living understand how complicated the transition process can be. Our team will also help to encourage your loved one to meet new people and participate in activities and events that are available to them. One of the best parts of senior living is the opportunity for socialization and community involvement right outside one’s front door!

If your senior loved one struggles with isolation and loneliness, consider Baxter Senior Living as an alternative to their current living arrangements. At Baxter Senior Living, we understand the challenges, both physical and emotional, seniors can face when they struggle each day with isolation and loneliness. Let our caring and compassionate staff help to reduce these emotions and increase the quality of life your senior family has in their golden years.

Resources

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/loneliness-in-the-elderly-151549.htm

https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-loneliness-affects-the-elderly/

https://www.nursenextdoor.com/blog/4-ways-to-alleviate-senior-loneliness-depression/

https://khn.org/news/understanding-loneliness-in-older-adults-and-tailoring-a-solution/

https://www.nap.edu/read/25663/chapter/5#57