It is safe to say that many of us have experienced loneliness at one point or another. It is a normal part of life – along with all the times we may have wished for the opposite – just a few moments of peace and quiet! But too much loneliness and isolation can lead to physical and mental health problems as you age.
In an article published by the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation in New York City, Dr Jianfeng of Fudan University in China said that social isolation is a “serious yet under-recognized public health problem that is often associated with old age”. Dr. Feng’s team studied more than 460,000 adults in the United Kingdom aged 57 and older for 12 years. The study found that social isolation may be an early indicator of an increased risk of dementia. Other studies in other countries have come to the same conclusion.
But the effects of loneliness on aging do not stop there. In an article published by the American Psychological Association, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University in the United States said, “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.” In fact, the article reported that social isolation can cause as much harm as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder.
If you are an older adult and need some ideas for banishing loneliness, we are here to help. You have probably heard many of the typical suggestions for coping with loneliness like volunteering, visiting your local senior centre, or taking a gym class.
With a little imagination, we have come up with a few more suggestions for staying connected that you may not have considered.
Whether you are a seeker of science fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, you are likely to find people who have the same interest. Check with your local library or bookstore and note what reading groups or book clubs they might have. If they don’t have a book club, why not ask to start one of your own! Reading groups often meet monthly to chat about the latest book the group has read, but they can meet on any schedule. For a twist, consider hosting a “silent reading” group, where people read their own book in the same place.
Lots of families and young adults enjoy “game nights”, but there is no reason to restrict the fun to the evening hours. Plenty of people are at their sharpest earlier in the day. Especially if the games you want to play involve logic or strategy, your group may appreciate this tweak in the usual timing. Offer tea and coffee, and ask guests to bring a snack to share. Depending on how many people you invite, you can have more than one game going. Think cards, board games, or even jigsaw puzzles.
You may already enjoy exchanging emails or handwritten letters with friends, children or grandchildren. Why not extend your reach? Start locally – perhaps residents of a local senior living community or nursing home would enjoy exchanging letters. If you would rather connect with someone nationally or internationally, there are numerous safe, well-run companies that have been around for years. These sites offer privacy and security measures and may suggest you get a post office box or similar service if you prefer not to share your home address. Consider the Letter Box Project or Australia Post’s Senior Pen Pal Club.
Who says cookie exchanges are only for Christmas? The joy of baking and sharing goodies is seasonless, and grandkids are not the only ones who enjoy a treat. If you know others who enjoy baking, why not have a monthly exchange? It can be fun to share favourite family recipes and try new things. Try taking inspiration from birthdays, holidays, the seasons, or local events. You could even share your cookies, pies, and other treats with your local fire department, SES or police station or other community group.
The more you enjoy what you are doing, the more likely you will stick with it. Your new activity or hobby may even lead to more ways to connect with people. And remember, your local Right at Home office can help with mobility and transport as part of our homecare services so you can meet up with your new friends. Right at Home as a homecare provider for seniors and those living with a disability and post hospital care, also offers social support, community connection and companionship care. Let us help you tackle loneliness.
If you are experiencing loneliness or isolation, you may be at risk of depression or other health problems. It is important to consult your health care provider for any assistance.
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Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors (elderly and aged care), and any adult who needs our care at home including adults living with a disability who want to continue to live independently or age in their home. Right at Home is your local expert for issues related to caring for your loved ones and is dedicated to keeping you informed about home care. With no package management fees Right at Home allows you to get more care from your package or budget.
Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and offers flexible in-home care services such as nursing care, after hospital care, post-operative care, respite care, dementia and Alzheimer's care. Right at Home also offers assistance with daily living and personal care such as grooming, hygiene, transport, shopping, meal prep, domestic services and social support, so your loved one can enjoy a more independent, vibrant life. Our nurses and caregivers are screened, highly trained, and insured prior to entering your home so you can trust us with the caregiving while you focus on your loved one.
To find out more, please give us a call on 1300 363 802 or visit our website.
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