At this time of the year we can all be left feeling a little bleak. This is also a season in which older members of our communities may struggle the most with experiencing loneliness. What we each too-often forget is that the act of supporting others can reward us in turn with a boost of our own!
By giving our time and energy freely, we can attract well-being benefits for all parties involved, including increased immunity, stress reduction, and better mental health. Many of us feel a little starved of connection these days, so being creative about fostering new opportunities to build bonds can be priceless.
As years advance, after a lifetime of independence, recognising and tackling loneliness can be tough. Age tends to bring with it some baggage – perhaps in the form of age-related stigma or unwelcome changes that impact the sense of self. But such challenges definitely do not indicate that it is time to settle for solitude!
While there might not be much that any of us can do about the creaky joints that come with getting older, loneliness is something that should not be accepted as a status-quo.
With that in mind, we have compiled some of the hurdles that can stand in the way of a fulfilling social experience. What is more, to these we have added fantastic tips to help you to fly over any such obstacles!
At times, that which puts a spanner in the works as we age is easy to pinpoint. Reduced agility can make getting about trickier, and driving may no longer be an option.
Physical decline in the form of chronic pain, disability, blindness, or deafness, are certainly obstacles indeed, but it only takes a little kindness to ensure that nobody gets left behind!
Consider the elderly in your neighbourhood, and ask yourself who might benefit from a check-in.
The offer of a trip to the supermarket or to pick up a prescription may lift their spirits. Helping to put groceries away or mow the lawn might not seem like much, but it is the gesture of giving itself that unfailingly transforms the human experience.
Social Stigma & Self-Image
In later life, many fall into the trap of imagining that they are a burden, or that their role in society is a thing of the past. This can be compounded by increasing difficulty in performing self-care, resulting in an overall knock to self-esteem.
However, rather than being a time to shrink, the senior years are simply a time to shine in a different way! The elderly around you are fonts of extraordinary knowledge and life experience that await your discovery – if they are willing.
While you can on the one hand offer practical support to make self-care easier, you can also encourage your older acquaintances to consider taking up new hobbies or to teach/share their talents. It is never too late for reinvention!
Bereavement & Mental Health
As we get older, it is an unfortunate truth that the risk factors in play for mental health issues shift just as our age does. Ill health or the experience of losing a loved one can increase the risk of depression for our elders – and of course bereavement is, in its own right, a huge hardship to navigate.
Keeping in mind that mental health may be an isolating force for those nearby gives us the power to spot when someone might need a little extra support.
Offering both kindness and patience, as well as potentially giving gentle encouragement to seek further help can be immensely valuable.
Being Wary Of Change
It may be the case that an older person feels concerned that if they reach out to others, they may initiate a tumble of change that is outside of their control.
Admitting the need for help can carry anxieties about no longer being able to live alone, or having to surrender a beloved pet, however it is important to recognise that there are many support options available to those in later life – including many that facilitate remaining in a familiar place.
Someone that you care about may be reluctant to accept your kindness because of these kinds of concerns, but they will likely feel better once they let go of the inclination to struggle alone.
Change can be intimidating at any stage of life, but it often brings with it new possibilities. That said, it is essential to respect the feelings of your seniors – they have, after all, got a great deal more life experience under their belt than you do!
Other Things You Can Do
Big changes tend to happen by way of many small steps. If you would like to do more to support the elderly within your community, there are lots of places that you can start. Lifting the veil of loneliness can begin with nothing more than a smile or a “good-morning”!
Offering to help out from time to time or popping by to play a game or have a cup of tea are also great openers. Remember that caregivers can also grapple with difficult challenges, so warm gestures to those caring for a loved one may also serve as a gift.
To take your good intentions yet a step further, you can also explore the charities and age-related organisations operating in your area and discover how you can get involved. With understanding of how powerful small actions can be, imagine the power of a team!
The Benefits Of Professional Support
Professional care providers can offer support in a spectrum of ways. While your first thought of professional care might be full time or live-in care, Heritage Independent Living can also provide peace of mind through a friendly face popping by for a few hours each day to help out with chores.
Sometimes, admitting loneliness or struggle is the hardest part – experiencing genuine and caring support can mean turning a corner into a brighter day.
Contact our friendly and knowledgeable team to discuss tailored care solutions to meet any need, be it large or small.