As we age, we go through a lot of changes. We face empty nests. We lose spouses to divorce and death. And while some people enjoy being alone, many also face loneliness for the first time. The Administration on Aging states:
Over the past 10 years, the population age 65 and over increased from 37.2 million in 2006 to 49.2 million in 2016 (a 33% increase) and is projected to almost double to 98 million in 2060.
About one in every seven, or 15.2%, of the population is an older American.
About 28% (13.8 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons lived alone (9.3 million women, 4.5 million men).
Almost half of older women (45%) age 75 and over lived alone.
Being alone is different than loneliness. And for a senior already facing an array of changes, loneliness increases their risks of mental, emotional, and physical wellness.
If you’re concerned about a family member, your reason is well-founded. An isolated senior is more at risk for living an unhealthy lifestyle. Which means they’re also at greater risk for losing their independence sooner, and requiring more medical intervention down the road.
What can you do?
Introduce your loved one to technology. While many seniors are still scared of being online, if you make it easy, they can find all kinds of friendships and resources to keep them happy and entertained. Consider finding local senior technology resources in your area. Then sign them up, teach them to use it, and check in to ensure they are using sites to their full potential.
Encourage social settings. Just because a senior lives alone doesn’t mean they have to be alone. Look for senior centers that offer everything from lunch dates to classes and special outings. A date on the calendar gives them something to look forward to.
Find transportation that works. Is mobility an issue? Are you nervous to push them driving even more, especially after dark? Look for options. Uber and Lyft have revolutionized the way we travel around town. And if you’re loved one only uses them a few times a month, it can be a lot less expensive than having a car. If you find a car service that works well for your loved one, consider hiring them exclusively for her outings.
Look for support groups. There are groups for just about everything you can imagine. If your loved one is a widow or a widower, a grief support group may help. If they have health issues, a specific group may give them the tools they need to live a happier life.