Aging family members face a number of health issues as they grow older, but some of the most challenging may not be what loved ones expect. Social isolation and loneliness are just two examples that can increase mortality risk in the elderly, according to McMaster University. Luckily, there are some strategies individuals can use to reduce the feelings their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles may be experiencing. Here are a few tips loved ones can utilize to make seniors feel less isolated and alone:
Partake in activities together
Just like their younger counterparts, senior loved ones have favorite movies, music and more that reminds them of their younger days – and that they'd probably like to share with family members. Children and grandchildren of aging parents should talk to them about their interests and partake in activities seniors may enjoy together, according to Forbes. Go see a traveling Broadway show or classical music concert! With a little research, family members can find events that are perfect for the whole family, and will put a smile on seniors' faces.
Sometimes, reconnecting with friends is food for the soul. If seniors have loved ones that live nearby – and that they haven't seen in awhile – offer to be a chauffeur for the night. Family members can give aging parents and grandparents a ride to a friend's house or provide a ride to both seniors, taking them to a restaurant in the vicinity. While loved ones are catching up, chauffeurs can run errands and complete other responsibilities. Just be sure to set a time for pick up and be available if loved ones need anything.
"Only 38 percent of adults 65 years and older believe depression is a health problem."
De-stigmatize professional help
In the past, talking about sadness and frustration with another person – albeit a professional psychiatrist – was frowned upon by society. While that sentiment still exists today, it is especially prevalent among seniors who grew up during the "handle it yourself" generation. A Mental Health America survey found that only 38 percent of adults 65 years and older believe depression is a health problem.
Yet, this condition can arise due to chronic illnesses like Alzheimer's disease and cancer, causing older loved ones to struggle unnecessarily. If loved ones witness signs of depression – change in eating and sleeping habits, or sadness – in their family members, they should attempt to talk with seniors about their feelings and seek professional assistance if they need it, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Consider another option
It's common for seniors to receive care in their homes or in those of their loved ones. If family members can no longer provide the care aging individuals need – or require additional assistance – they have multiple options to consider. In-home caregivers can provide help during the day while people are at work, offering company to seniors while completing basic household tasks and aiding in dressing, bathing and more. Families also have the option to transition loved ones to assisted living, memory care, independent senior living or retirement communities. These options enable seniors to make friends in similar situations and surrounds aging loved ones with a social scene that can improve their outlook on life and general happiness.
While loneliness tends to be a part of life, it comes with seriously negative risks for seniors. Family members can take certain actions to reduce the feeling of isolation their loved ones may be feeling – whether seniors are still living at home or in an assisted living community. Spending quality time with friends, children and grandchildren may do the trick for some, while others may need to speak with a third party who can provide an additional outlet.