At some point in our lives, we have all felt a sense of isolation – it’s part of human nature. As people, we all crave social contact, so without it, it’s natural to feel a pang of loneliness. However, some elderly people tend to feel it more than others.
According to research by Age UK, there are 1.4 million lonely older people living in England. These feelings of loneliness can often lead to further problems and can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
As such, we all must understand how loneliness can affect our loved ones and us.
What causes loneliness?
Loneliness isn’t necessarily caused by simply being alone; there are plenty of other factors that can come into play. Loneliness is a feeling that stems from sadness due to a lack of companionship or communication with others.
For the elderly, this can be due to a physical distance between loved ones, which isn’t unusual, with many family members moving away as they grow up. However, even without the physical distance, it can be difficult for older members of the family to see others.
During retirement, there are more hours of the day, and other members of the family can be busy with work and other commitments. On top of this, potential health problems can lead to reduced mobility which makes catching up a little more complicated.
In addition to this, close friendships amongst those in their age group may also become challenging. Friends may be moving away to live with family members or struggle to get out and about themselves. And, with some individuals, communication itself can be difficult due to health problems such as dementia.
Spotting loneliness in the elderly
With many potential causes, we need to be able to recognise if our loved ones may need additional support. It can be hard to identify, especially as the feeling of loneliness is often a gradual progression, but there are some common indicators to look out for.
Take the time to really listen to what they say; are they suggesting that you don’t call enough, or that they don’t have anyone to talk to? Or do they talk a lot more than usual when they see you?
Behavioural clues can also be a big indicator. For example, they may not be as extroverted as they once were. Or they might be starting to act out of character when it comes to socialising.
Also, take a look at their relationships. Have they been forming new relationships or nurturing existing ones, or is it becoming difficult? Similarly, do they focus on past relationships during your catch-ups?
How to support the elderly overcome loneliness
If you think your loved one is becoming lonely, there are plenty of ways in which you can help them combat those negative feelings.
Do a quick search of your local area and seek out any clubs that may be of interest to your loved one. For example, many community centres host arts and crafts sessions such as knitting and nattering. Also consider whether they may enjoy a day centre where they can meet other people, enjoy activities and day trips.
There are also plenty of helplines and befriending services available. For instance, The Silver Line is available on 0800 470 8090 and offer older adults a safe and confidential environment in which they can talk about how they feel. Age UK (0800 055 6112) and Independent Age (0800 319 6789) also offer regular befriending calls.
However, in many instances, loneliness, coupled with escalating health problems, can be a sign that a person needs additional support, such as that offered by care homes.
Moving into a care home can often give older people a new lease of life. This is because it enables them to access the support they need to live healthily while being able to make meaningful relationships with those in their community.
How we can help
Here at The Beeches Residential Home, we have seen the positive impact first-hand. As a dementia specialist home, we’re able to give your loved one the support they need. As well as this, we can help them as they communicate and bond with the people around them, whether it be friends and family, or members of the Beeches community.
We also host regular activities and spend one-on-one time with every resident to ensure they feel connected, comfortable and, most importantly, happy.
If you’re interested in hearing more about The Beeches Residential Home, our team would be happy to talk to you. Based in Ixworth, just outside of Bury St Edmunds, we provide a positive environment for older people, including those with dementia, to live in.
Contact us on 01359 230773 or email firstname.lastname@example.org