How to Combat Elderly Loneliness


Loneliness, and the causes of loneliness in our later years is a somewhat depressing thing to think about, but as you read these words more than 3.6 million older people are living alone1, and over 2 million of those are over 75 years of age. It is a sad reality of life that as we move further into our golden years, it becomes more and more likely that our spouses, close friends and family will pass away – and as that torrent of bereavement takes a huge toll, those older people with mobility issues may not be able to safely leave their home unassisted, making it practically impossible to join clubs and meet new friends, let alone take an active role in their community.

Loneliness in the Elderly – The Facts

Loneliness is a hidden epidemic in the UK: with 11.8% of UK residents (all older people)2 reporting that they either live alone, feel ignored, invisible, or both.

“Loneliness can be thought of as perceived isolation and is more accurately defined as the distressing feeling that accompanies discrepancies between one’s desired and actual social relationships3Pinquart & Sorenson 2003

Loneliness is a prevalent and serious social and public health problem4 Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2010

Studies on the prevalence and impact of loneliness in older people are performed mainly in western countries, and, although there is yet to be consensus on the issue, there is profound evidence that loneliness in old age directly affects physical and mental health – including a rise of morbidity among those suffering from this condition. The charity for older people, Age UK has surmised that the health effects of loneliness are akin to smoking 15 cigarettes every day, and finally, residents in many of the areas around Cambridge and the city itself are considered very high risk of loneliness in older people according to Age UK.5

Combating Loneliness

There are several great ways to help older lonely people feel less isolated, as remember – perception of loneliness may well be loneliness itself – as thought above. Here are a few great tips:

·       Regular Visits for Family, Friends and Neighbours

Anything you can manage, once a day at a regular time might be perfect, or too much! It of course depends on the person. But ‘checking in’ from time to time can also help a great deal.

·       Regular Telephone Calls

If you can’t manage to see them in person, a phone call from someone they love (instead of a telemarketing call or scam call…) will most certainly be welcome!

·       Taking them out for trips around the town.

For health reasons it may not be possible for weekend or day trips – but spending almost all of one’s time inside their own home would take its toll on anyone regardless of their age. It’s a great idea to take them down to the shops, even if only for a couple of hours.

·       Contacting Professionals who are passionate about caring for the elderly.

Paxton Hall’s passionate, highly trained, empathic and genuinely caring staff can help end loneliness for all inside the Hall. Regular game nights, a new magic table, and the opportunity to meet new friends can resolve this serious problem permanently.

 

Sources

[1] https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/loneliness/ | Retrieved 15/10/19

[2] Ibid.

[3] Pinquart M, Sorenson S. Risk factors for loneliness in adulthood and old age: A meta-analysis. In: Shohov SP, editor. Advances in Psychology Research. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science; 2003. pp. 111–143.

[4] Hawkley LC, Cacioppo JT. Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2010;40:218–227.

[5] http://data.ageuk.org.uk/loneliness-maps/england-2016/south%20cambridgeshire/ | Retrieved 15/10/19
http://data.ageuk.org.uk/loneliness-maps/england-2016/cambridge/ | Retrieved 15/10/19