Loneliness Awareness Week 2021 – Understanding loneliness and the elderly

Loneliness Awareness Week, hosted by Marmalade Trust, is a week-long campaign that raises awareness of loneliness and strives to get people talking about it.

It is within our basic human instincts to want and need contact with other people. For the elderly, loneliness is a leading cause of mental health with isolation and mental wellbeing frequently linked.

According to Age UK, recent research has found that there is around “1.4m chronically lonely older people in England and many more across the rest of the UK”.  That feeling of loneliness can be almost as dangerous to our health as smoking around 15 cigarettes per day.

It is crucial that we take the time to understand how those feelings of loneliness can impact our loved ones.

Main causes of loneliness

For older people, the distance between friends and family can be a leading cause of loneliness. While social distancing has made connecting harder this past year, other factors can come into play. For example, family members may have other commitments such as work, and with retirement adding more hours to the day, an emotional distance can also develop.

Friendships can also become distanced as we age. Your loved ones may find it harder to keep in touch as older people often move away as they downsize.

Health conditions can also make it hard to meet up, and communication can become a struggle. As we grow older, elderly people tend to become more vulnerable making mobility more challenging than before.

Identifying loneliness in the elderly

Loneliness can stem from a range of causes.  Therefore, it is crucial that we can identify them and offer as much help as we can.

As specialists in elderly and dementia care, we able to identify loneliness very early on. While the signs can be hard to identify, there are some key indicators to be aware of.

In conversations with your loved ones, really pay attention to what they’re saying. Some people who feel lonely begin to talk a lot more, while others drop subtle hints that they would like to talk to others.

When feeling lonely, there are a few behavioural changes that can become apparent. Some isolated individuals are known to begin to act more extroverted. Others find themselves acting out of character during social interactions.

A tip from us to you is to ask about their relationships. For example, they could be finding it challenging to keep up with their friendships. Meanwhile, others may find it a struggle to meet new people.

How to help elderly individuals who are feeling lonely

Simply introducing new activities for your loved ones to do could greatly help the way they are feeling. Here at The Beeches, we regularly host a range of activities to improve wellbeing and reduce loneliness. Some of our resident’s favourite activities have recently been playing bingo games, outdoor garden games and even our weekly ‘Keep Fit Wednesday’ sessions.

As a home that puts high-quality care at the heart of everything, we encourage all our residents to participate in different exercises and experiences that can support them. During the pandemic, the power of technology helped eliminate loneliness across our homes allowing us to connect residents and loved ones despite the restricted distance.

Now COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to ease, we recommend checking out the local area and see if anything is happening. Many community centres host meeting groups and activity sessions and local day centres could also be a good option. Day centres deliver activities, day trips and the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

If you should be unavailable, providing a list of professional support and helplines is a good way to help your loved ones:

  • Age UK (0800 055 6112) and Independent Age (0800 319 6789) both offer befriending phone calls regularly.
  • The Silver Line (0800 470 8090) also provide befriending. This alongside a supportive environment for people to talk about their feelings.

Feelings of isolation  along with escalating health issues, could be a sign that a person needs additional support. A nursing home can provide individuals with the opportunity to live comfortably and healthily. At The Beeches, they’ll be receiving all the support they need while being able to enjoy the company of others.

Situated in the picturesque village of Ixworth, The Beeches Residential Home supports a small community of 44 residents. We provide both physical and mental stimulation aimed specifically at those living with dementia. We are still welcoming new residents and have clear policies in place to be able to do this safely.

As restrictions are gradually easing, we can welcome loved ones back into our home. Visits from friends and family truly lift our resident’s mood, especially in these difficult times.

For guidance on how to book a visit, please read our blog here or call our friendly team on 01359 230773.

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