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Growing Old Alone: Preventing Senior Isolation During the Holidays

May 2019
Growing Old Alone

Growing old alone has a lot of consequences for our growing senior population. Studies have linked isolation among seniors to a higher mortality rate and a host of health issues.

Isolation is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. That becomes much more evident during the holidays, which is considered to be a time to enjoy family and friends. For many seniors, it’s a time that they hope passes quickly, even if they’re getting the care they need at home or in a facility.

There are things that can be done to ease the loneliness of isolation. Read on to discover what you can do to help seniors feel less isolated during the holiday season.

Don’t Give Them a Gift, Give Them Your Time

Have you ever heard the saying that your presence is a present? That is especially true for many seniors today.

Give the seniors in your lift the gift of your time. Even if you don’t know of any seniors, you can volunteer at an organization that works with seniors.

By being present with them, you can help them ease the pain of growing old alone.

Have a Real Conversation with Them

One of the most important things that we all need at any age is to feel like we’re being heard. It can be a conversation over the phone, Skype session, or time spent over a cup of coffee. Have a conversation with a senior

You have to remember that seniors who are socially isolated tend to have a negative or pessimistic view of life. That may cause you to want to avoid any conversation with them because you assume that it’s going to be one complaint after another.

There may be some negativity in there, but it’s more important for the senior to feel heard. They may open up about what’s going on, such as mourning a dear friend, or they’re experiencing discomfort with aging.

Let them open up to you and be a sympathetic ear, actively listening to what’s troubling them.

Simplify the Holidays

The holidays might as well be called the silly season. It’s usually the time of year when we get wrapped up in gift-giving, gift shopping, food, more food, and business.

What if you tried something different this year? What if you stuck to a few core traditions in your family, and did away with everything else?

By simplifying the holidays, you ease the burden and stress of the holiday season on everyone. That gives you and everyone else the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate what’s truly important.

Attend Religious Services Together

If your family is religious and one of your traditions is to attend Hanukkah, mass or another religious service, this is something to do with your loved one. It can help them ease the isolation and loneliness of the holidays.

Attending a religious service can also help them feel at peace. Some elder care locations have on-site religious services during the holidays.

Let Them Know How Important They Are to You and Your Family

People may get frustrated because they can fully contribute to family celebrations. That can make them feel worse and they may want to isolate themselves further.

Go out of your way to give them things to do that they can do. It can empower them and make them feel like they’re making a contribution.

Be sure to let them know how much they mean to you and your family. The most important thing is that you’re there together, not how much stuff one person does.

Don’t Rely on Technology Alone

Technology and social media have allowed us to be more connected than ever. As connected as we are, we can feel more lonely. That applies to seniors, too.

Sure, they can see pictures of their grandchildren on Facebook, but that doesn’t replace face to face interactions. In fact, that could make them feel even more lonely than before.

You want to match the connection to the needs of the senior citizen. If they prefer a phone call over Facebook, call them. Some people may prefer to see pictures directly over email because they don’t use social media.

Deliver Meals During the Holidays

Visiting seniors and delivering meals is a great way to combat isolation. Meals on Wheels is one of the top organizations that will deliver meals to seniors. You can become a volunteer and brighten up someone’s day just by showing up and delivering a meal.

Visit a Pet Shelter

There’s a special connection between seniors and animals. As humans, we need to be attached to something or someone. That’s why pet therapy is a powerful tool to combat isolation in seniors.

Pets are fun to be around and can give seniors a sense of purpose. If they can’t have a pet to call their own, visiting a shelter can be a great opportunity to connect with animals. It’s a win-win situation because the animals in shelters are lonely, too.

Visiting animals in a shelter can help both the seniors and animals feel less isolated. Another possibility is to see if the senior can volunteer at the animal shelter. That will get them out of their environment and be able to connect with people and animals.

Growing Old Alone Doesn’t Have to Be Hard for Seniors

There are many reasons why our seniors today are growing old alone. They may be geographically isolated from family, widowed, or have transportation issues that keep them isolated.

That social isolation can be especially difficult during the holidays. There are things that can be done to lift their spirits, and the most important thing is to make them feel loved and cared for.

If there’s a senior that you’re thinking of now, let them know. Send them an e-card today to show them that they are loved

 

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