It is not a red flag to constantly experience being alone. However, when you start to constantly feel a sense of loneliness, it can lead to a phenomenon called social isolation. This is especially common amongst older adults where they are more likely to experience the loss of a spouse or empty nests after their children grow up.
The issue is that social isolation can have detrimental impacts on a person’s overall physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities. This can present both in the present, as well as in the long term future. However, it can be easily prevented. Here are some tips to consider.
Provide Options for Transportation
Having the ability to move around creates a sense of independence and freedom. On top of this, it is important as it allows older adults to visit their friends and loved ones as well as to take part in the activities and programs that they enjoy. By putting in place reliable transportation infrastruction, older adults will be able to experience larger levels of social integration even when they are no longer able to drive.
Maintain a Sense of Purpose
For most of us, we spend our lives either pursuing a career or taking care of our parents or children. When retirement happens, this can lead to a loss of purpose where there is no longer a grounding or interesting goal that needs to be pursued. However, older adults with a sense of purpose or who are passionate about their hobbies are less likely to experience social interaction. It is therefore important to encourage the older adults in your life to take part in the long term activities or commitments that bring them joy like learning a skill or volunteering.
Adopt a Pet or Take Care of Plants
For others, a key part of not feeling lonely is to have a companion. This will differ from person to person but studies have shown that pet owners or even tending a garden can help to ease the effects of social isolation. This is because the act of nurturing another living being has been shown to boost a perosn’s mood as well as act as a social lubricant when it comes to making friends.
Recommend Adaptive Technologies
For some older people, social isolation occurs as a result of physical or cognitive deterioration. Whether it is movement, hearing, or vision limitations, it can affect how they generally communicate with others as well as their confidence in interacting with new people. By ensuring that your loved one has access to technologies like hearing aids, mobility devices, or even accessibility features on their phone can help with bridging the gap between them and their community.
Join a Senior Living Community
Not all older adults experience social isolation by virtue of their own choices and actions. For some, it is just something that has developed over time due to the loss of a spouse or loved one. The best way to address this is to reintroduce bonds to a community. A senior living community like the one at Discovery Commons Cypress Point has many different exclusive senior living programs and amenities that create opportunities for meaningful social engagement to reduce the odds of social isolation.