Loneliness is fast becoming an epidemic and this plays an important role in further deteriorating an older adult's health. It has been found that lonely seniors are more likely to decline and die faster. A study from The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found that "people, 60-years-old and older who reported feeling lonely saw a 45 percent increase in their risk for death". Isolated elders also had a 59 percent greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social counterparts.
Loneliness is infectious. Older adults who feel lonely are more prone to behave in ways that may cause other people to not want to be around them. Psychologists from the University of Chicago who analysed data from the Farmingham Heart Study, a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular study, found that "solitary seniors have a tendency to further isolate themselves by pushing people away and not making efforts to engage with others".
Here are a few ways you can help alleviate loneliness in your elderly loved one:
Listen and observe: Encouraging a senior to express themselves and this can help you discover what interests and passions lay dormant, just waiting to be rekindled in your loved one.
Develop a strategy to defeat seclusion: Once you know what your loved one loves to do, you can use this information to develop a personalized loneliness eradication plan for them. Be it visiting temples every alternate day, or eating sundal at the beach, or attending kutcheries.
Let them teach you: This not only has the potential to be a great bonding experience, it also can help add a bit of balance to the child-parent dynamic that may have been upended when you started caring for her. Even if it's something that they already know about, let me teach you about it. Make that effort to let them know that you might still need their help in some aspect of your life.
Bridge the generation gap: Try to come up with ways to help the oldest and the youngest generations of your family to spend time together. Research has shown that an unengaged elderly adult will experience cognitive decline at a much faster rate than a senior who is mentally stimulated by interactions with other people. This generation gap term is often used as an excuse to bond with the older generation. The term Old is Gold should be evident here, where youngsters these days are treasuring the music, clothes, etc from the 50s, 60s or the 80s.