Found to be as big a risk to one’s health as smoking and obesity, it has been suggested that loneliness is now becoming a public health issue and not just among the elderly. It is no surprise that loneliness is inexorably linked to depression, but according to research, loneliness can impact an individual’s health as much as poor cardiovascular health and in older people, dementia. Loneliness can affect anyone at any stage of life, but it is far more common in young people as well as those over 75 years of age. Apart from feelings of sadness and isolation, loneliness can also impact an individual’s physical health in negative ways. There are many reasons why someone might feel socially isolated and lonely. These might include an inability to participate fully in lifestyle activities due to a decline in physical health, living alone, retiring from the workplace or changes to family dynamics.
It’s important to recognise feelings of isolation, sadness and depression in your loved ones as it can be difficult for people to reach out to others when they feel lonely. Often people feel embarrassed to admit they are struggling with these feelings and may not share openly.
There are a number of ways you can support your elderly loved one to avoid loneliness. One of the most important factors is for individuals to feel connected to the community they live in. Often people are not aware of the many ways in which they can get involved in community groups and activities. Encouraging your elderly loved one to explore the possibilities available will be invaluable in supporting their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Here is a list of suggestions worth considering:
- Men’s Shed
- Rotary, Probus or Lions Clubs
- National Older Women’s Network Australia
- Community centres and neighbourhood houses provide many opportunities to connect with others, learn new skills and contribute to their local communities.
- Seniors Online is a fantastic Victorian state government tool for exploring what activities are available in your local area.
- Volunteering is a great way to get involved in a cause you feel passionate about or that meets your skill set and is an invaluable asset to the organisation you choose. Many not-for-profit organisations rely on their volunteers to provide much needed support that they could otherwise not afford. Check out Volunteering Victoria for opportunities in your area.
Living in an aged care community is in itself a good way to combat loneliness as there are many opportunities for residents to get involved with the activities on offer. If you would like to arrange a visit to one of our homes and see for yourself click here.