Aging and Living Alone
According to the Pew Research Center, there are 12 million Americans over the age of 65 that live alone. The majority of this population is women (69%) while older men are more likely to be living with a spouse. 48% of older men and 71% of women reported being satisfied with the number of friends that they have while living alone. While both of these percentages are high, it is important to consider seniors who are not satisfied with their social life and relationships. Although living alone does not correlate directly with loneliness and isolation, seniors remain at a higher risk for both. Looking into senior living may be a way to prevent isolation (especially since it is associated with a higher risk of mortality). There is a great percentage of seniors who wish to stay in their home as they age, but recognizing signs of loneliness as well as considering the benefits of moving to a senior living facility are both worth exploring for yourself or for a loved one.
Recognizing Signs of Loneliness
Emotional pain and suffering can be more difficult to pinpoint, diagnose, and treat, and may even manifest as physical illness or pain. Loneliness is a huge risk factor for the onset of depression and even cognitive disorders. This is why isolation and loneliness in seniors is something to be aware of because it's so easy to miss. Here are some common signs to be on the lookout for with loved ones:
- Hanging up the keys: Seniors that have lost the ability to drive makes it difficult for them to attend events and have to rely on others for transportation.
- Change in appetite: If you notice your loved one eating less, if their food supply in their kitchen is uncommonly low, and a change in frequency of trips to the grocery store, this could be a sign of loneliness.
- The recent loss of a family member or close friend: Grieving a loss is difficult and as we age, we experience more frequent losses. Reaching out to your loved one during this time to ensure their coping methods are healthy is important to help prevent feelings of loneliness.
- Excessive calling or lack of staying in touch: A loved one who is constantly reaching out about needing help or calling multiple times a day, or the opposite is experienced where communication ceases and your loved one becomes reluctant to talk; this could indicate that a senior is experiencing isolation.
- Change in sleeping pattern: Complaints of restless sleep, sleep disturbances, napping a lot, or broken sleep pattern
- Lack of motivation: A home that is unusually not kept up or pets remain not cared for, and other common daily living activities that cease is a warning sign.
- Increased time spent at home: Be observant about a loved one who previously spent much time socializing out of their home is suddenly now spending an increased amount of time at home.
- Neglecting personal hygiene: Unwashed hair, dirty clothes, body odor, and change in appearance are something to keep an eye on and ask your loved one about.
- Fixated on death: Constant talk of death or even talking about others that are lonely is a common sign of feeling lonely!
- Reduced sense of purpose: This can be something to look out for after a recent change of circumstances such as retiring from a job or losing a responsibility such as caring for a grandchild after decreased mobility.
- Loss of interest in hobbies: Seniors experiencing loneliness or isolation will no longer have a passion for what they have loved most in life.
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness: These are also signs of depression and it is best to seek professional help for your loved one.
The benefit of Senior Living
Seniors and their loved ones who notice loneliness or isolation may benefit from considering a senior living community where just by moving to one helps to promote forming of new relationships, attending of events, and being able to find an encouraging sense of purpose by just being included in the community. Although the change may be scary and it is hard to consider the unknown when you have been in the comfort of your home, exploring senior living may be a great option to consider for preventing isolation or loneliness.
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