Preventing Loneliness in Older Adults
Many older adults are much more lonely, isolated, or disconnected than we realize. And we often get too caught up in our lives to make an effort to get together with our older friends and family members, or to check in with our elderly neighbors.
What can make things worse is that older adults who feel most isolated struggle with reaching out in the first place. Sometimes, they don’t want to be perceived as a burden. But if they feel like others don’t seek them, they can withdraw even further. That’s why it’s up to us to reach out to them.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Over 40% of older adults experience loneliness and isolation on a regular basis.
• Individuals who are isolated are 64% more likely to develop dementia.
• A lack of social connection is as hurtful to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
• Feeling disconnected and alone can lead to depression and even to suicidal thoughts.
SPOTTING THE SIGNS OF LONELINESS
It’s important to be on the lookout for social isolation in older adults. Here are some things to consider:
• Do they receive visits from friends or family?
• Do you see them outside of their home often?
• Do they complain that their children no longer call them?
• Have they recently lost a spouse, close friend, or caregiver?
• Do they have a chronic health condition such as depression, failing memory, or hearing loss?
If you are concerned about an older adult’s safety — don’t hesitate — call the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging at (805) 477-7300 or visit: www.vcaaa.org. If there is an emergency, call 911.
REACHING OUT TO OLDER ADULTS
Make it a practice to reach out to others throughout the year. It benefits the people we connect with — and us as well.
• Ask to hear an elderly neighbor’s stories.
• Text or call the relative you’ve lost touch with.
• Stop by and chat with someone at work who has seemed a bit sad lately.
• Invite someone new to your home for dinner.
• Plan a phone date with an old friend who lives out of town.
• Share something you enjoy – play music, go to a concert together, or teach someone to knit.
• Make handmade cards with your child and send to family members or friends on birthdays and holidays, or just because you’re thinking of them.
• Give compliments.
• Give smiles. Warm, approachable, genuine smiles.
• Give your full attention – put down the phone and take a break from text messages and social media.
• Make it a habit. Reach out to someone every week or every day.
• Ventura County Agency on Aging: (805) 477-7300, or visit: www.vcaaa.org
• Senior Support Line: 1-800-235-9980
• Ventura County Crisis Team: 1-866-998-2243