When we are young, we are surrounded by our loved ones constantly. Our friends and family continuously come together to laugh and spend time with each other. As time passes, the rate of being with your loved ones begins to dwindle; this is especially true when we are over 75 years old. The isolation of the elderly is a rarely discussed problem but is very important.
The elderly are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, two feelings we get when our need for social contact is unmet. In the United Kingdom, over 2 million people over 75 express concern over their mental well-being.
They feel increasingly isolated, sometimes going over a month without speaking to a single person. The cognitive implications of this cannot be understated; depression and anxiety are widespread, often leading to a decreased immune system and deteriorated health. What makes things worse is that those who find themselves in this situation find it increasingly difficult to reach out and find solace. They feel like they are a burden, and instead of asking for help, they isolate themselves even more.
Loneliness and isolation will happen for various reasons, including but not limited to increased age and weakness, retirement, death of loved ones, and disability. Here at Waoh, we all have elderly loved ones that we care for deeply, so we wanted to find the best way to help them. And so, we have created a list of a few tips and tricks that might help
Stop and Say Hi!
This one is simple. Do you have a loved one that might be suffering from loneliness or social isolation? It can be hard to get them out of the house sometimes; you might even invite them often, only to have them decline your invitation. It’s necessary to understand that this isn’t your fault and is instead a product of their situation and isolation. Instead, try to go to them or pop by unannounced. A simple hello can go a long way, and if you want to make things memorable, bring them a small gift to let them know you were thinking of them. This gift will remind your loved ones that there are people that care.
Social Groups and technology
An initiative that is slowly becoming more popular is the education of the elderly in the use of technology and devices. Local community areas and libraries have begun running courses to teach older people the fundamentals of computer technology, such as email, Facebook, and Microsoft. Older people are often excited and in awe at how technology has revolutionized areas such as banking and communication.
By learning technology, older people can also engage with online social communities. With this knowledge, you provide them with a foundation for meeting people and overcoming their social isolation and loneliness. You will give them the power to make their own decisions and take matters into their own hands. Recently, older people have become popular on social media such as Tiktok and Twitch Let’s just say there is a reason your Facebook feed is suddenly filled with your grandma’s opinions and recipes. However, instead of rolling your eyes, we encourage you to comment and tell them how awesome she freshly baked cookies are!
Similar to social groups, volunteering is a great way to make friends from all around the world. An older person has a lifetime of experience and value to share with anyone that will listen. This knowledge can be precious to those who are suffering or those who want to learn. Encouraging those suffering from social isolation to consider volunteer work would be beneficial. It’s free and provides a fantastic experience to make friends while giving purpose to one’s life. Studies have shown that those with ambition live much healthier and happier lives.
Social isolation isn’t something we think about; by its very definition, it is not something we ever see. If you have a loved one in your life who might be suffering from loneliness and isolation, we encourage you to let them know you love them and that there are options for making a difference. A simple call can make all the difference in one’s life, so if there is an older person who you haven’t spoken to in a while, let them know how much they mean to you.