Based on data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 43 percent of older American report feeling lonely on a regular basis. These statistics are further amplified when considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the winter season. There are many factors that contribute to loneliness, and although they may seem to be beyond your control to manage, it's important to identify what is causing your distress and take the necessary steps to reduce feelings of isolation.
Seniors who live in the assisted living community at Hickory Villa in Omaha, NE, have access to common areas and activities to help them socialize with others. We also take a look at some problems of loneliness and isolation below and present some potential solutions you might consider in each case.
There isn't a single person who hasn't been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, although seniors have been subjected to especially frightening statistics regarding their health and the novel virus if infected. This has caused more elders to stay home and away from public spaces, but that often also means staying away from family, friends and places that you might enjoy visiting the most. It's important to take care of your physical health and safety during this time, however, you don't have to sacrifice your social circles in order to avoid getting sick.
The solution? While the coronavirus had forced the shutdown of many public spaces and placed restrictions on travel, there are many ways seniors can still enjoy social interactions right from home. Advancements in technology have provided video chat applications like Skype and Zoom and other social media platforms. These apps are often user-friendly, so you don't need a lot of experience to use them. Reach out to the assisted living staff for help setting them up or call your children or grandchildren for advice.
It might sound silly to some, but Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real phenomenon that can occur at any time of the year but typically affects those during the winter months. This can be easily dismissed by some as this form of depression isn't present throughout the year, but if you notice that you're experiencing lingering sadness, irritability, loss of appetite or lack of sleep that have been prevalent for two weeks or more, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The solution? Although SAD can be self-diagnosed and usually can be treated from home with light therapy, consider visiting a professional who specializes in mental health if your symptoms are severe. Some great advice in dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder is to always look forward to activities you can do now instead of looking forward to the warm weather ahead. There are plenty of fun social activities you can still do despite the cold wintry weather, including arts and crafts, cooking or simply enjoying warm beverages with friends in the assisted living community.
With age comes the increased chance of developing arthritis, diabetes and other health-related issues. These are natural with getting older, however it doesn't mean these conditions must limit you in your social life. Overall, poor health can be a direct factor in restricting your ability to participate in social situations, so talk to your medical provider about treatments, medications and other options for helping you to feel better so you can engage more.
Even if you're not dealing with a specific condition, your lifestyle could be keeping you from socializing well. All those holiday sweets may cause some indulger's regret, but if you notice that winter blues have got you down this year, it may be good to take a look at your everyday dietary habits and consider sticking to an exercise regimen that considers both your strengths and limitations.
The Solution? Ask yourself: Do you notice that you've been eating foods containing lots of sugar? Maybe you're a healthy nut who eats plenty of fruits and vegetables? Do you have enough energy that can sustain you throughout your day? Answering these few questions can help guide you in establishing a healthy diet and fitness routine. Make this a social opportunity by taking advantage of Hickory Villa's Wellness Services and exercise programs. If you need further help in improving your overall health, consider a consultation with your caregiver or physician.
Maybe there isn't an exact reason why you feel the way you do. You just don't have that social support system available to you and are looking for ways to alleviate your loneliness. Humans are social creatures, meaning that positive interactions with other people are important in maintaining our overall happiness and quality of life. But it might be challenging to meet new people or make an effort to involve yourself in social situations, especially if you find yourself in a new environment after a move.
The Solution? Believe it or not, there are plenty of other seniors—even right in your assisted living community—who feel the same way you do. Look for upcoming events like a paint night, group yoga or any other social gathering you have an interest in and try your best to participate. Even if you're not convinced you will have fun or it's worth your time, you may be pleasantly surprised with the social opportunities that come from choosing to engage.