Seniors and Social Isolation: 4 Tips for Loved Ones Who Live Alone

The challenges of the old age are many. Deteriorating health and physical decline can seriously limit a person’s independence and enjoyment of life. The ever growing costs of life can make it increasingly difficult for seniors to meet their economic needs living only off their retirement pension. But among all of the trials and tribulations old age can bring about, there is one that can be easily overlooked by younger generations. Without help from the loved ones, it can crush the spirit of a senior faster than any physical or economic problem.

Social isolation, the topic of this month’s blog and a cause of great emotional discomfort to the elderly, is a problem that can potentially affect millions of American seniors. According to a report compiled by the by the Federal Administration for Community Living, 14% of 50 million Americans over 65 live by themselves. For women over 75 years of age, it’s almost 50%. While social isolation can be an emotional challenge in and of itself, it was also shown to contribute to a higher risk of mortality, cognitive decline, risk of dementia, and other long-term health issues. However, living alone doesn’t necessarily mean that a senior has to experience social isolation and all of the related issues. The family can do things to provide the needed company and comfort.

Learn to Recognize the Symptoms

The first step to providing the needed assistance to a senior who might be suffering from isolation is to know how to recognize it. This is a challenge in and of itself – after all, if you don’t live with your elderly parent, then you are less likely to communicate with them or see them frequently enough to be able to recognize the symptoms. Below, we mention a few of the tell-tale signs you should look for:

  • loss of interest in socializing or engaging in activities they have previously enjoyed
  • apparent mood and personality changes
  • unusual changes in eating habits or weight loss
  • neglecting personal hygiene
  • cognitive decline

If you start seeing these or similar symptoms in your family member who lives alone, it may mean they’re already suffering from social isolation and it’s time for you and your family to take some decisive steps to help them.

Make Good Use of Technology

Due to long-distances and an increasingly hectic pace of life, it may be difficult for you to visit your loved one more often than what currently is the case. If so, technology can be an invaluable help in staying in touch with a senior every week and preventing them from feeling isolated. Facetiming or Skyping can be a great way for grandchildren to stay connected with their grandparents. After all, for kids and adolescents, video calls and messages are a natural way of communicating and maintaining relationships. For seniors, in turn, it is an opportunity to see and hear their grandchildren much more frequently than it would be otherwise possible.

Plan Vacations Together

Even with all the advances of modern technology, nothing can really substitute personal contact. A good way to provide this much-needed connection is to plan a family vacation. This will be a great opportunity for a senior to relax and enjoy the warmth of the relationships with the loved ones and feel their affection. Additionally, going to new places exposes the senior to new experiences which can stimulate the brain and help them stay in good mental shape.

Help Them Get Socially Active Again

Even though you’re making all the efforts and sacrifices to provide company to your loved one as often as possible, you can only do so much. That’s why you should also help them get their social life back on track. Here are some ways in which a senior can become an active member of their community again:

  • volunteering
  • enrolling in a course or a class for seniors
  • participating in a group exercise program for seniors
  • joining a club
  • taking (or retaking) up a hobby

As American society gets older, senior isolation will affect more and more people. However, the family can do a lot to help their elderly family members to feel loved, secure, and appreciated. Luis E. Barreto & Associates, P.A. cares deeply about the well-being of the seniors in our community. We also provide legal advice, assistance, and representation in a variety of issues related to elder law. If you think your family member could benefit from our services, do not hesitate to contact us.

Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.