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The most recent statistics show that twenty eight percent of people over 65 live alone. So, in addition to reduced mobility, hearing loss, and vision loss, many of the elderly are facing loneliness.

Loneliness in seniors can have devastating health consequences. It can lead to depression, mental illness, and a host of physiological symptoms including a higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Some elder care experts say that isolation can impact health as hard as smoking fifteen cigarettes on a daily basis. And, hopefully, we know by now how bad smoking is for everyone’s health.

Loneliness is not the same as living alone

Loneliness is surprisingly subjective. Not everyone who lives alone and has little contact with the outside world is lonely. Some people cherish their alone time. And they want lots of it.

Yet other individuals feel lonely even though they have a moderate amount of social engagement with other humans. Loneliness, elder care specialists tell us, is all about whether a senior is engaging people as often as he or she wants to.

And it also matters whether a senior is surrounded by the people he wants to engage. Just as some married people are miserable while some singles are happy, some old people are more unhappy with the people they are obliged to live with than they would be on their own.

That is why many seniors resist going to nursing homes. In a nursing home, a senior is thrown on the company of care workers and fellow residents that she has not chosen. By contrast, home care allows seniors some leverage in saying who comes to their homes. Home care professionals often provide the right amount and the right kind of companionship for seniors.

Three ways to fight senior loneliness

There are many ways that the adult children of elderly parents and other concerned individuals can help seniors stay socially connected in ways they choose. Here are a few ideas that specialists in elder care suggest:

Make sure that your senior and the person she most wants to chat with both have Skype enabled iPad. iPads are easy to pick up and hold for people with physical impairments. And Skype or Facetime can rather easily be loaded to these devices. As long as two people both have a program that allows face to face conversation, they can chat together as much as they wish, no matter how far apart they are. iPads for seniors make great Christmas or birthday gifts.

Hire home care. If you’re looking for a really meaningful gift to give a senior, consider buying a few hours a week of home care from a licensed agency or individual. Home care professionals are well trained to offer the kind of companionship that seniors crave. They can coax your senior into keeping up with hobbies and other fun activities that keep loneliness at bay.

Educate your senior about Mental Health America. Mental Health America has a twenty-four hour chat room where people can ask and answer questions about anything, post pictures of dogs and cats, and engage people who post interesting information.

In conclusion, keeping seniors feeling meaningfully connected to others is not just a matter of dropping them off at a community center. Like everyone else, seniors like to pick and choose their companions. Communication technology can enable people over 65 to connect with the people they most want to connect with. And home care professionals are often the best in-person companions because of their training and knowledge of senior issues.



Mental Health This Holiday and Beyond: 4 Steps to Combat Loneliness in Seniors