When we are in the time of life when we are raising children it can sometimes feel like we will never know a minute’s peace. Each day there is another explosion of yelling, running and wild activity in the house from the moment the kids are born until they are grown and moved out. It was when the last one finally makes their way into the world that we are reminded what it actually feels like to be alone.
Going from the non-stop activity of raising a family to the transition to retirement and the abundance of new found time on your hands is an adjustment. However, the adjustment is even more profound when one elderly and finds oneself alone much of the time. The problem of loneliness is chronic in the elderly community so it is worthy to be proactive in thinking about ways to minimize loneliness.
The impact of loneliness in the elderly community is well known. Excessive loneliness can easily lead to a sense of isolation, desperation, and depression. This can result in withdrawal, health issues, loss of cognitive abilities or worse if an elderly loved one does not find a way to overcome loneliness and have daily purpose. An elderly loved one in their house can feel abandoned and resentful when your day passes with no human contact. If they have relocated to an assisted living center or nursing home, the problem may be exacerbated without the comfort of familiar surroundings.
So what is the solution to loneliness for the elderly and for us as we move into retirement?
In general, the solution is to be active and to continue to have meaning in life.
Although it may be challenging to get elderly loved ones engaged in activities but these have shown to be successful.:
- Hobbies–Many assisted living residences and senior activities centers have classes (painting, woodworking) and activity times. Help your elderly loved one find activities that may be enjoyable for them.
- Time outside each day–Being outside in nature and sunshine continues to be important to overall physical and cognitive health. If your loved one will not go outside on their own, find them companionship for the outings.
- Music–Music can help us connect to past memories and positive feelings. There are streaming channels that cater to different decades of music.
- Watching beloved movies-Movies, like music, are nostalgic and bring back memories and help fill time during a day.
- Short in-person visits–Although we need to always be mindful of not passing on germs to those who are medically fragile, we need to have human contact. So plan a safe visit to talk and maybe share a meal.
Consider building your OWN “combating loneliness muscles” with the following:
- Participate in organized social functions. Most cities offer many activities that are interesting and meaningful. From learning a new hobby or language, to visiting local places of historical interest to simply enjoying the company of others – it is all available.
- Volunteer to help others. There are so many excellent ways for you to volunteer at church, with civic groups, or in the arts that you can stay continuously busy. Not only do you get the gratification of doing something good for others, you get out and meet people which is a sure cure for loneliness.
- If you are part of a religious organization, be connected. If you are active in your religious center, they always have ways for you to be involved during the day. Some of them will be volunteer opportunities but others might just be attending a good study group or social time with your religious studies class.
- Pitch in with the grandkids. This is a wonderful way to get out. You love those grandkids and by giving your children a way to get out and leave them in a trusted place, you do them good and get tons of great play time with those sweet children.
Wishing you and your loved ones many moments of connection and fulfillment!