There is an important public health threat that affects nearly half of Americans across the United States: loneliness. Being socially isolated is extremely harmful for your health, as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and twice as harmful as obesity. While isolation has always been an issue to the aging population, it has become even more worrisome since the pandemic. When seniors suffer from elongated isolation, it can manifest into more serious issues. Loneliness can contribute to senior suicides, which are rising in the U.S. While it can be unpleasant subject to think about, we must remove the stigma around mental health and combat loneliness by spreading awareness. Loneliness doesn’t have to be synonymous with aging, and with a little bit of effort it can be kept at bay.
Spotting the symptoms of loneliness in yourself and others around you, especially those you love, can be hard. The most common symptoms of loneliness are persistent sadness, impaired cognitive performance, lower self-esteem, or lack of motivation and energy. Look out for these symptoms so you can intervene early. Catching it early can positively affect the quality of life of someone suffering, so it is important to address these issues before they become overwhelming.
Technology can come in handy to reduce loneliness, especially with seniors. Giving a medium where seniors can connect to loved ones and care teams who can monitor and interact with them can greatly combat the feelings of loneliness. Over the last couple of years, adults over 60 made up the fastest growing population online. Connecting to outlets such as Facebook and utilizing functions such as emailing and texting can have a positive impact on your life. These channels can allow you to communicate more often with family, reconnect with old friends, keep up with whats happening in your community, and connect with others who have similar interests. Video chatting is another great way to connect to those around you, especially since the start of the pandemic. If you have a smart phone, there can also be useful applications that can keep track of things like your medication, vital signs, location, and help you navigate where you want to go.
Connecting with people, doing things that make you feel like you have purpose, and following your passions can all help eliminate the feelings of isolation. Great activities to consider are organizing a reoccurring social gathering or exploring local activities organized by your senior community center.