Reports indicate that more seniors are living alone in their homes today than ever before. In a recent AARP study, it’s stated that at least 90% of seniors over 65 want to stay at home as long as possible. This statistic isn’t surprising. However, what is alarming are the findings that close to half of all seniors living alone suffer from social isolation.
While aging in place is liberating, and helps seniors maintain a sense of independence, it’s also lonely and even sometimes dangerous. Homes must be adapted and modified for safe, independent living, but a senior aging in place also needs a strong support system and regular companionship. If all of these elements are in place, living at home alone can be a great choice for many seniors.
As we grow older, it’s inevitable that social connections and activity will decline. Whether this is due to illness, lack of mobility, retirement or deaths of family and friends, it is a difficult, but natural part of aging. What’s not natural is feeling isolated and alone. If you are a loved one, caregiver, or friend of a senior who lives alone, it’s important to understand the warning signs of isolation. These include …
- When an illness becomes “a way of life”
- Overall lack of motivation and/or energy
- Sense of being stuck in the past, or frequently mentioning “the way things were”
- Overwhelming exhaustion that leads to excessive sleep
- Anxiety or depression that causes sleep disturbances
- Avoiding family or friends when they reach out
- Not wanting to leave the house although they are physically able
Even if these warning signs aren’t present, it’s still important to be aware of what you can do to make seniors feel more connected to their family, friends and community. Here are some tips to help avoid senior isolation…
- Invite the senior out to dinner or plan a scheduled activity. If they decline, continue to ask. Offer to go to their house and prepare a meal together.
- Help them locate a charitable cause of interest and become a volunteer. Volunteering is an excellent way to connect seniors to their community.
- Make transportation available to them, whether for appointments, errands or just to get out of the house. Lack of transportation is a major cause of social isolation.
- Find an activity where they can participate as part of a group. The group setting promotes a sense of purpose that may otherwise be lacking in their life. Things like playing cards or book clubs are great ideas.