Elder isolation is a national issue impacting the physical and mental wellbeing of the older population. It can lead to depression, dementia, and a host of other health issues. However, in the hustle and bustle of today, it can be hard to notice and even treat elder isolation.
While there isn’t a magic pill to take or procedure to have that eliminates loneliness, there are ways to help older people at risk of isolation.
Note: During a worldwide pandemic that requires social distancing and quarantines, some of these tips might not be possible, so look for ways to adjust that don’t put each other’s health at risk.
Make time for conversation
Whether it’s a phone call or in-person visit, take the time to ask an older person about their day. An aging person at risk of isolation is going three to seven days a week without human interaction. Watch a TV show or movie or put a puzzle together. Use the opportunity to let them know what friends and family members are doing. It will help them feel connected to the outside world and shorten the distance they feel is separating them.
Send a letter
Thanks to technology, most people aren’t getting letters in the mail unless it’s a holiday or special occasion. For the older generations, a handwritten letter or card reminds them of their younger days when people used the post office to connect with loved ones. Taking the time to mail them a letter will show them how much you care. And if they still enjoy writing letters, you just got yourself a new pen pal. Although they won’t get to hear your voice or see your face, it will give them something to look forward to that connects them to other people.
Staying active is important to healthy aging. Encourage an older loved one to get outside for 30 minutes at a time. It can be for a walk, tai chi, or gardening. The fresh air and activity will give them an energy boost. If they are hesitant to go outside, ask why. They could be struggling with incontinence or hygiene, a sign they could use some help at home.
Help with household tasks
If an older person is struggling with isolation, they might not feel mentally up to cleaning the house or yard work. Offer to take out the trash, help with laundry, or cut the grass. They will appreciate the help and the company. Again, this could also be a sign they need help at home.
Older people are more tech-savvy than their younger counterparts sometimes give them credit for, but with social media platforms constantly changing algorithms, there’s nothing wrong with a little help. Like making a phone call, stopping by for a visit, or writing a letter, social media can help older people stay connected with the outside world. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, photos allow older people to see their children and grandchildren grow, especially if they don’t live close to each other.
In a time when it seems like everyone is connected, it can be easy to forget there are people who are isolated from their community. Taking a few minutes out of your day to call an older loved one or stop by for dinner will have an immediate and positive impact on their mental and physical health.