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Senior Loneliness: 7 Ways to Reduce Social Isolation

Chronic diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease, etc.) are known as the leading causes of health decline, but did you know that loneliness in seniors has similar, if not worse, effects on one’s health? According to the National Institute on Aging, isolation and loneliness can be linked to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions. During the coronavirus pandemic, feelings of loneliness are heightened as many seniors have had to socially distance themselves from loved ones and have spent a long period in quarantine. However, there are a variety of techniques on how to reduce social isolation.

A senior woman wearing a mask is seen looking longingly out of a window

In 2020, a Pew Research study found that 27 percent of adults 60 and older live alone. While it’s not fair to assume that all seniors who live alone are lonely, sometimes living alone can lead to social isolation and loneliness. According to the National Institute on Aging, loneliness is proven to have negative effects on health, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cognitive decline
  • Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Death

How to Reduce Social Isolation 

You may not be aware of resources or activities designed to combat loneliness. Loneliness is something that should be treated as a physical, mental and spiritual concern. At Iora, we believe that when you spend the time to form real relationships with patients, you can help them live happier and healthier lives. With the importance of relationships in mind, here are some ways to manage loneliness during COVID-19.

Find Creative Ways to Connect 

An elderly couple are seen taking a selfie signing the peace sign

In the age of social media, finding ways to connect is easier than ever before. If you’ve found yourself missing loved ones, schedule a video call with them. Applications such as Zoom and Facetime are a great resource to start this process. Settle down on a couch with your favorite snack and give your loved ones a call. Share stories of the past and any of your favorite memories  There are many games you can play with your friends and family on Zoom as well. If social media isn’t your forte and you’re unable to meet with loved ones due to the coronavirus, plan a drive-by greeting. Position yourself near a window and speak to one another through the glass. Hold up signs and messages, or sit at a safe distance apart. 

Stay Informed 

A cell phone screen displayed the CDC website

Too much information about COVID-19 may put you into information overload. However, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest health information. Seek factual advice from organizations such as the CDC and WHO

Keep a Schedule

A senior couple sits outside drinking coffee and reading the paper

Although times are difficult, it’s important to create some sort of structure in your day-to-day life. Sometimes we find ourselves bound to our couches and beds, but taking some time out of your day to be productive can help you feel a sense of “normalcy.” Try to set an alarm and wake up at a reasonable time. Start your day off with a plan and an idea of things you can achieve. If you need to fill up your schedule, try to do yard work, attend a virtual exercise class, read a book, play a game or cook a meal. Whatever you choose to do in your day, make sure it’s something you enjoy. 

Attend a virtual class or workshop

A senior man is seen holding his knee into his chest balancing on one leg

Looking to attend a free virtual class or workshop? Classes can range from support groups, with people who are looking to chat about their lives, to more active classes, like exercising or aerobics. To learn more about the resources in your area, reach out to a friend, family member, community leader or even your doctor. They can likely recommend some options that would work with your schedule and interests. We are currently offering virtual events to keep our community connected while at home. Join us for an upcoming event!

Take up a new hobby

An older man is seen learning to play the guitar by computer

Trying something new can be fun and exciting. A lot of older adults enjoy trying things like gardening, knitting, learning an instrument or arts and crafts. Now is the time to delve headfirst into learning something you may have never had the time to do before. Why not try a new volunteer experience? Nowadays, you can volunteer from the comfort of your home by fundraising through social media or trying a new virtual volunteer experience. Or, maybe you can learn a new language through apps like Babbel and Duolingo

Call a helpline for support and a listening ear

A senior woman sits on the couch while talking on the phone

The Institute of Aging’s 24-hour toll free friendship line is a great resource to chat through your feelings and concerns around loneliness. Give them a call today at 800-971-0016.

Remember that you are never alone

At Iora Primary Care, our patients have the time they need with professionals who listen, care and can address their health needs, concerns and goals. Browse our locations and don’t hesitate to reach out for more information.

For more on how to reduce social isolation, find ways to stay busy with this list of great, socially-distant things to do at home

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