Sadly, seniors are more susceptible to loneliness and social isolation, as they may lose a partner, friends, and family members over the years.
Also, ailing health and a decrease in confidence could restrict an elder to their home, making them feel cut off from society and their loved ones.
If you don’t live in the same city or country as your mom or dad, you might be concerned about them feeling alone and isolated.
Even if you live in the same city, you might be eager for them to socialize to protect their health, happiness, and quality of life.
If so, read the below nine ways to protect your aging parent from loneliness.
- Listen to Your Loved One
Many seniors want to feel as if they have someone in their lives who is willing to listen to them.
The conversation can be as simple as talking about the weather to as big as hearing about their health and happiness.
Don’t underestimate the importance of lending a listening ear. According to a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Nursing Sciences, listening can reduce loneliness, decrease systolic blood pressure, and enhance social support among older adults.
Set time aside to listen to your parent in person and over the phone. Try to engage them in conversation, and encourage them to express their emotions, worries, and opinions.
Also, ask plenty of questions to ensure they feel heard and valued by you, which could lift their mood and prevent feelings of social isolation.
- Include Your Parent in Your Life
In addition to listening to your parent, visiting them regularly, and calling often, you should find ways to include them in your life, especially if you live in the same town or city.
For example, invite them over for dinner at least once per week, buy tickets to see a show, or organize a family dinner to encourage them to mix with relatives.
The more you include a parent in your life, the less lonely they will feel during their senior years.
Also, they will feel more emotionally supported and less isolated from their loved ones.
- Give the Gift of a Pet
If they can care for a pet each day, your mom or dad could enjoy the companionship of a pet.
Many publications have reported a connection between pet ownership and reduced levels of social isolation and loneliness.
For this reason, you should consider giving your parent the gift of a dog, cat, or another animal to make their home and life feel a lot less empty.
After all, pet ownership can reduce loneliness and may even lower cortisol and increase serotonin levels in the body, which can support their mental health and prevent the development of depression or anxiety.
- Discuss Senior Living
If you suspect your loved one is lonely or feels cut off from society, they could enjoy a better quality of life by moving into a senior living community.
Saying goodbye to their home might feel daunting, but it could transform their social life and support their mental and physical health.
Many reputable senior living communities aim to bring residents together to keep loneliness at bay and boost their general happiness.
For instance, they could move into a luxury Fort Lauderdale senior living community and embrace many opportunities to have fun and socialize, as they could dine at a bistro with ocean views with other residents, participate in social activities, relax in common areas, and chat with others at the onsite salon, to name a few options.
Your loved one might be against the idea at first, but they might be more eager to move in once they learn about its various benefits, such as chef-prepared meals, a pool terrace, and socializing opportunities.
Also, you can enjoy peace of mind that they’ll receive around-the-clock care from a licensed nurse and trained staff, who will adapt to their needs as they grow older.
- Encourage Friendships
Various studies have found that people with meaningful relationships with friends and the local community will feel happier, experience fewer health issues, and live longer.
Stop your parent from feeling lonely and extend their lifespan by encouraging them to maintain relationships or reconnect with long-lost friends.
For example, you could convince your mom or dad to invite a friend for coffee or lunch, go for dinner at a restaurant, or enjoy a fun activity together.
If you’re loved one doesn’t feel confident leaving their home, encourage them to pick up the phone to maintain friendships and stay socially connected to their friendship group.
- Teach a Senior to Use a PC or Mobile Device
If you live hundreds or thousands of miles away from a parent, you can keep in touch with ease via PC, smartphone, or tablet computer.
Unfortunately, a senior might not know how to use a computer or mobile device, which is why you must teach them how to use one or encourage them to take a course.
Once your mom or dad has mastered the basics, they could regularly enjoy free video calls with you and your family via Skype, FaceTime, or WhatsApp.
The video calls will provide an insight into your home life, which will make your parent feel more a part of your world.
If they struggle with poor finger circulation or arthritis, they might find it easier to use a sponge-tip stylus pen over a touchscreen, as this might be too fiddly for them.
Research their local community for regular computer skills training courses for seniors, and it could even provide an opportunity for a parent to mix with people of a similar age.
- Research Local Community Activities
As stated, seniors are more susceptible to loneliness and social isolation, which is why many join local community groups to make friends, embrace new activities, and keep their brains sharp and healthy.
For this reason, it might be worthwhile researching any local community groups near your aging parent to encourage them to socialize frequently.
For instance, they could join a book club, a bridge game, a walking group, a choir, or a faith group, to name a few possibilities.
Consider your mom or dad’s interests and find a regular event that will encourage them to venture outside their home and make friends.
- Find Volunteer Opportunities for Seniors
If your mom or dad is rattling around the home, they might relish an opportunity to give back to their community, especially if they have a caring nature.
Many organizations depend on kind-hearted volunteers and won’t discriminate on age or ability.
For example, your loved one could volunteer their time at a local:
- Animal shelter
- Habitat for Humanity
- Community garden
- Political campaign
- National park
A volunteering opportunity will give your mom or dad a reason to step out of bed each morning, mix with new people, remain physically and mentally active, and feel more connected to society.
You might be surprised by the difference volunteering can have on your parent’s health and happiness.
According to the National Institute on Aging, embracing meaningful activities could reduce a senior’s risk of physical health issues and dementia.
- Support Their Mobility and Independence
If your loved one struggles with their mobility, a lack of confidence could be preventing them from visiting loved ones, performing errands, or attending events.
If this is the case, find ways to support their mobility and, in turn, their independence to boost their social life.
For example, your loved one might feel more confident using one of the following:
- Electric scooter
- Walking stick
- Walking frame
A mobility aid could provide the confidence they need to say yes to a dinner invitation, visit a friend’s home, or attend a local community group.
Also, they might be more likely to attend a coffee morning or visit your home if they know you’ll transport them by car or taxi to and from their address.
The thought of your parent experiencing loneliness more than likely fills you with sadness and guilt.
Unfortunately, it is a sad reality for many seniors worldwide, as they can feel ignored, isolated, and alone.
Yet, help is available in various forms to ensure your mom or dad feels more connected to their loved ones and society, from regular calls and visits from relatives to attending local community groups.
If you suspect your mom or dad is feeling lonely and socially isolated, try to encourage them to maintain relationships or form new friendships.
Also, make it your mission to include them in your life, from inviting them to dinner to organizing regular video calls.
A better social life will lift their mood and give them a reason to wake up in the morning.
What’s more, it could prevent the development of various health issues, such as insomnia, depression, stress, cognitive decline, hypertension, and more.
A few small changes could make a big difference in your mom and dad’s life, which could improve their quality of life, support their health, and extend their lifespan.