Are you a senior who sometimes feels a deep sense of loneliness? Are you someone who worries about a senior who seems lonely?
Loneliness is nothing to be ashamed of. And if you educate yourself about loneliness, you can recognize and combat its effects before it becomes a major problem.
Loneliness in medical studies
Research shows that loneliness poses a true health risk for elderly people — one that can lead to higher blood pressure, greater stress, reduced immune defense (lowered production of white blood cells) and earlier death in some cases.
The study also revealed the startling fact that loneliness is a better predictor of early death than obesity. Those who felt lonely were more likely to die within six years than their nonlonely counterparts even when the study adjusted the results based on individuals’ ages, health problems and other factors.
Three steps to beat loneliness
Seek companionship. Many people look only to caregivers and family members for friendship, but local support groups, senior centers or faith-based organizations can be wonderful places to make new friends.
If you are a friend or caregiver to an elderly person, encourage them to lead an active social life and look for opportunities to help them connect with others.
Rediscover interests. After retirement, seniors may find they finally have time to take up hobbies that career or family responsibilities made difficult. Consider volunteering, caring for a pet, gardening, arts and crafts, reading, following sports or playing an instrument.
Having a hobby helps people of all ages stay motivated and keep an eye toward the future.
Be patient. The process can take time. A casual acquaintance can slowly become a close friend. A new hobby may take a little dedication. But loneliness is preventable. Taking steps to avoid loneliness helps your emotional and physical health.