In this time of Social distancing, many seniors battle loneliness. While proper spacing is an essential step in reducing transmission of the coronavirus, this distancing also can cause social isolation and loneliness. Although this can affect anyone, regardless of age, the elderly are particularly vulnerable at this time.
What exactly is loneliness? We have all experienced loneliness at some time, but a more refined understanding can help us help our loved ones. While social isolation is simply not being around other people, loneliness is a subjective feeling – a sense of suffering from being disconnected from other people. In other words, social isolation may lead to feelings of loneliness. Studies have linked these persistent feelings to higher risks of conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and even death.
How to Help
Experts offer guidance on how we can help our elderly loved ones combat feelings of loneliness and avoid their negative mental and physical health consequences.
- Help with the technology for video chats and social media. Mastering this opens the door to reconnecting with people, and guess what? They are probably home.
- Set up regular phone calls or video chats on a daily or weekly routine.
- Explore online learning opportunities, especially those designed for seniors.
- Help your elderly loved ones to change their expectations for the time being, and understand that this situation is temporary.
- Check your local government and church websites for assistance. Plenty of people who are home are trying to find a positive outlet by helping others.
- If you have even some technical skills, helping those who are isolated use social media and video conferencing can be a great lifeline.
Dr. Laurie Santos has a great podcast called the Happiness Lab, where she recently touched on ways to help with loneliness and points out the science of what we know. Helping others is a great way to help yourself. Listen to her recent “Beat Your Isolation-Loneliness.”
We all need support and at least a little help these days to get through this crisis. Reaching out to help your neighborhood seniors battle loneliness is a great way to give yourself a meaningful boast.
Resources: ABC News, The unspoken COVID-19 toll on the elderly: Loneliness, April 14, 2020.