How Can We Combat Loneliness Amongst The Elderly?

Being alone describes a state of being, whilst being lonely is derived from an emotional response to a circumstance. While some people prefer being alone, it’s rare for anyone to welcome feelings of loneliness. Social isolation can negatively impact a person’s mood, outlook on life, sense of purpose and can lead to severe mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

At Twilight Aged Care, we value the importance of community and connectedness, and we understand that active social connections are imperative for our mental and physical well-being.

The number of elderly people living without social or emotional connections is increasing. When you consider that over one quarter of all older people in Australia are living alone, the main question that arises is, how might we work to prevent the continual rise of loneliness in the ageing population?

Whilst everyone will experience loneliness in some way, at some point in their life, it is important to remember that everyone’s circumstances are unique. However, some of the common causes of loneliness in the elderly are:

Loss and grief: Those we feel most connected and comfortable around – our spouses, life long friends and family members – are deeply interwoven into our lives. If that connection is lost in any way – whether it be sudden or gradual, by death, illness, relocation or simply a change of situation – the emotional connection, enjoyment of their company, association with their friends and shared enjoyment of activities goes with them.

Distance: Geographical proximity plays a large role on our ability to socially connect with others. Older people are more likely to be limited in their ability to participate in social activities due to having issues with physical mobility, ill-health, a lack of financial independence or having loved ones who live far away.

Technology: Being able to share messages or photos and partake in video conversations allows us to instantly connect to people at the click of a button or the touch of a screen, despite distance or time. Although there are many elderly people with limited ability or access to modern methods of social interaction, the number of older people joining social media as a means to stay connected with their families is slowly growing.

There is an overall lack of awareness on the various services available to the elderly in preventing loneliness and encouraging community engagement. It can also be difficult for your loved one to ask for help, or even recognise that loneliness is affecting them, so intervention can be a necessary step as part of a wider solution.

There are several not-for-profit organisations such as Beyond Blue, who work to address issues associated with depression and anxiety, as well as initiatives like R U OK? that aim to inspire valuable connections amongst members of the community. Projects such as The Casserole Club, encourage neighbours to share food with those living alone or who may not be able to cook for themselves.

If you know someone who is experiencing loneliness or social isolation, there are also a number of options for support. For assistance regarding loneliness and ways to manage it, My Aged Care is part of the Australian Government’s changes to the Aged Care system, designed to give people more choice and easier access to aged care support services.

Lonely people are twice as likely to enter residential aged care facilities than those who are not, so Twilight Aged Care is dedicated to creating meaningful connections between our residents, our staff and our volunteers to combat the negative effects of loneliness and isolation often experienced by the elderly.

If assisted living is a path you are considering for your loved one, we have a number of resources available on the Twilight Aged Care website Becoming a carer – How to care for your loved one or Transition to aged care – What to expect.

Contact Twilight Aged Care if you’d like to learn more about our community, our services or how we aim to improve social connectedness for our residents.

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