By definition, loneliness is a condition of “relational disconnection, social awkwardness and prolonged bouts of solitude. Lonely people often struggle with anxiety and depression, which renders them insecure and pessimistic about finding desirable and compatible friendships.”
Today, we can communicate instantly with friends and family across the country and around the world with a click of a mouse or tap on a phone. Even with advances in technology, studies are showing that people feel lonelier than ever.
The senior population suffers from loneliness as much as any segment of the population. For many, the family network that has surrounded them for their entire lives is mostly gone. Children and grandchildren are living their own lives, friends have passed or are physically or mentally unable to visit or connect, and their own physical abilities may have declined making connecting more difficult, or uncomfortable.
How do seniors combat loneliness and how can their loved ones help them maintain connections and a positive outlook?
Some ways are obvious, family can visit their loved ones more often and include them on even small family events like sporting events and picnics in addition to bigger celebrations. Seniors can join church clubs, or social clubs or senior centers to become more active. But in order for seniors to get involved, it requires a bit of effort on the part of the senior. When you’re feeling lonely, it’s hard to mentally psych yourself up to make that effort. Here are a few ways to change that mindset.
Talk to your doctor. First, make sure the feelings you’re experiencing are not related to depression. Depression is a serious condition and needs to be treated.
Find an activity you enjoy. Start with something you can do on your own – art, playing a musical instrument, baking, knitting or scrapbooking. Once you’ve found something you enjoy, consider looking for a group that meets to enjoy that activity. There, you will meet like-minded folks who share your hobby, making friendships easier when there’s already a common element.
Get out of the house. Whether it’s a ride or a stroll around the block, getting out of the confines of your home helps improve mental outlook.
Help others. Volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself and connect with others. When you’re helping others, you focus less on your own problems and feelings. Spend a few hours at a food bank or homeless shelter. If you’re physically limited, consider hospital programs where you can cuddle and rock newborn babies, or knitting caps or blankets for the homeless from your own home.
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