It’s human nature to need and want contact with other people, so it’s no surprise that we’ve all felt lonely at some point during our lives. However, with the elderly, loneliness can become more prominent.
According to Age UK, there are around 1.4 million older people experiencing loneliness. That feeling of isolation can be almost as dangerous to our health as smoking around 15 cigarettes per day. It’s therefore crucial that we take the time to understand how those feelings of loneliness can impact our nearest and dearest.
The causes of loneliness
Loneliness is defined as an emotion that stems from low mood as a result of not having enough social contact with other people. As such, feeling isolated isn’t always due to being alone, but other factors such as not communicating with loved ones as much as they’d like to.
For older people, the distance between friends and family can be a leading cause for loneliness. While physical distance can make connecting hard, other factors can come into play. For example, family members may have other commitments such as work, and with retirement adding more hours to the day, an emotional distance can also develop.
Due to the ageing process, we can also become more vulnerable, and mobility can begin to be more challenging than usual. Also, health issues can mean many have to stay close to home or need support when getting out and about.
Friendships can also become distanced as we age, so your loved ones may find it harder to keep in touch. Older people often move away as they downsize or live with family members. Health conditions can also make it hard to meet up, and communication can become a struggle.
Identifying loneliness in elderly individuals
Feelings of loneliness can stem from a range of causes, so it’s crucial that we can identify them and offer as much help as we can. While the signs can be hard to identify, there are some key indicators to be aware of.
In conversations with your loved one, really pay attention to what they’re saying. Some people who feel lonely begin to talk a lot more, while others drop subtle hints that they would like to talk to others.
When feeling lonely, there are a few behavioural changes that can become apparent. Some isolated individuals are known to begin to act more extroverted. Others find themselves acting out of character during social interactions.
Also, ask about their relationships. They could, for example, be finding it challenging to keep up with their friendships. Meanwhile, others may find it a struggle to meet new people.
Helping elderly individuals who are feeling lonely
If you spot any of these indicators in your loved one, it may be time to act.
Check out the local area and see if anything is happening, that may be of interest. For example, many community centres host meeting groups and activity sessions. Local day centres could also be a good option as they deliver activities, day trips and the opportunity to meet like-minded people.
Alternatively, befriending services can be of some solace. Age UK (0800 055 6112) and Independent Age (0800 319 6789) both offer befriending phone calls regularly. Similarly, The Silver Line (0800 470 8090) also provide befriending. This is alongside a supportive environment for people to talk about their feelings.
In other cases, feelings of isolation, along with escalating health issues, could be a sign that a person needs additional support, such as that offered by nursing homes. A nursing home can provide individuals with the opportunity to live comfortably and healthily as they’ll be receiving all the support they need while being able to enjoy the company of others.
Here at Portland Nursing Home, we see each day the positive impact of our supportive community. We’re always on hand to deliver the best assistance while supporting individuals as they take part in a range of activities.
If you would like to hear more about Portland Nursing Home, our friendly team would love to talk to you. Based in Buxton, Derbyshire, we provide a safe and welcoming environment in which older people can live comfortably.
Contact us on 01298 23040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org