Senior man leaning on folded hands

7 Steps to Reduce Senior Isolation

It’s not uncommon for seniors to feel lonely, isolated, and even depressed as they age. But there are ways for relatives and caregivers to prevent this with a little time and effort. If you’re hoping to improve the life of a loved one as they get older, consider these seven approaches.

Make Sure Your Loved One Has a Purpose in Life

Everyone deserves something to look forward to on a regular basis. For some people, this is a hobby, find out what your loved one likes to do. Some popular hobbies among seniors tend to include knitting, playing cards, reading, and gardening.

If your loved one doesn’t seem interested in hobbies, find out if they would be interested in getting a pet or a plant to care for. Many people get a sense of purpose when they know someone is depending on them. And for those who like to care for others—but only on their own schedule—volunteer work may be appealing.

Focus on Healthy Eating

Sometimes a sense of isolation is due to physical issues rather than the mental or emotional state. When people eat healthily, their mood may be better. So be sure your loved one is eating healthy foods that can boost their mood, such as lean protein, whole grains, fiber, fruits, and vegetables.

Try to keep sugar to a minimum, since the highs and lows that come with sugar ingestion can affect anyone’s mood. Of course, if your loved one is in an assisted living facility, their diet is likely pretty balanced so you shouldn’t have to worry about this too much.

Encourage Physical Activity

Another way to keep seniors feeling their best is to promote physical activity on a regular basis. After all, exercising is not only good for the body but also the mind, since it releases endorphins that can improve both self-esteem and mood.

Some good workouts include regular walks, swimming, and yoga poses that are easy for seniors to do. Many assisted living facilities even feature exercise classes for seniors, so maybe suggest that your loved one sign up for a class to improve their physical and mental health.

Get Them Out of the House

A lot of people start to feel isolated when they’re home all the time, and seniors are no exception. If your loved one rarely gets out of the house, find out why, and then try to solve the problem so they can get out more.

Even if it’s just a ride to get groceries or coffee once a week, it should help prevent the feeling of isolation. If you can’t always be there to offer a ride, help your relative learn the local public transportation system if possible.

Show Affection

Sometimes people just need a hug, or they need to hear they are still on someone’s mind. This is especially the case for aging adults who often feel forgotten about. They might feel they’re watching from the sidelines as people live their lives without them.

Make sure your loved one doesn’t have a reason to feel this way. You can show them you care by visiting them frequently, making regular phone calls, telling them you love them, and including them in family plans as often as possible.

Get Social

As much as visiting your elderly relatives often will help, you can’t be the only person they talk to on a regular basis. Unless you happen to live with them or close enough to see them just about every day, they’re going to need a larger social network. But it can be hard to make friends when you don’t leave your house often.

For this reason, you should help your relatives make friends. Find out about clubs for senior citizens in their area or adult day health programs, and offer them a ride if they’re interested in going. You can also help them join groups on social media that can put them in touch with other seniors in their city. In many cases, simply having a new friend to talk to online or on the phone can help keep loneliness and isolation at bay.

Get Professional Help

If you’ve been helping your loved one using methods like these for months, and they are still feeling lonely or depressed, it may be time to get professional help. They might be experiencing depression, anxiety or another mental condition that might prevent them from feeling happy or connected to other people.

Start by making your relative an appointment with their doctor, who might recommend counseling or prescription medication. It might also be time to get additional help, such as with home care or an assisted living facility. This is especially the case if he or she needs to start taking more medication or seeing a therapist.

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