Tackling Loneliness Among the Elderly
Elderly People in Ireland
In Ireland, 60% of elderly people aged 80 and over live alone and 1/3 of people aged 65 and over are living on their own. These numbers will likely climb as families are getting smaller, divorces etc. We may be living longer but we still age and as our mobility decreases we need looking after.
Causes of Loneliness
Loneliness in older people can caused for a number of reasons - bereavement, location, finance, health etc.
The Effects of Loneliness
Loneliness affects the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people. It is not just an emotion, it is a chronic condition and can have devastating health consequences among our older generation. According to health figures, it is believed to be twice as damaging to a persons health as obesity and it has the same affect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Being lonely also makes the elderly a lot more susceptible to dementia and cardiovascular disease. Limited social interaction also means likelihood of less going out or exercising outdoors and lack of exercise has many side effects such as low mood and depression.
What can we do?
As younger people can lose their patience with the elderly, this leaves them feeling like they are a burden and it prohibits them to ask for help. We need to reassure our elderly relatives/friends that they should not be afraid to ask for our help and that they are more than deserving of our support.
Check in with the older people in the community, make a phone call to an elderly relative, you would be surprised at how much your company can make their day. A little bit of light is all it takes to brighten someones day.
Tips and Actions for Helping Elderly People Alleviate Loneliness
- Listen - Listening is something we don't do enough, even for the people we love. Listening to someone who is feeling lonely will make them feel special and cared for and like what they are saying really matters.
- Social inclusion - Help them get involved in socializing by helping them sign up for elderly groups that have activities and days out. You could even go along with them so as they are not on their own.
- Teach - One of the best classrooms is at the feet of an elderly person so let them teach you what they know and share stories of the past. This sort of thinking is good for the elderly persons brain, it will give them a sense of importance and you can learn a lot from their wisdom.