Many people associate the holiday season with joyfulness, togetherness and feelings of family warmth but the season can also accentuate feelings of loneliness and isolation—especially in our senior community. Loneliness can affect not only mental health but also affect physical well being.
Isolation and loneliness in seniors can lead to debilitating depression, high blood pressure, dementia and shorter life spans. Time and time again we see that when seniors overcome loneliness, make new friends and feel a part of a caring community, theyâ€™re happier and their physical health improves.
~ Dr. Kevin Oâ€™Neil, chief medical officer of Brookdale Senior Living
Research shows that loneliness in seniors can accelerate deterioration of the mind in the form of dementia and it can also affect the physical health to the point of actually shortening life spans. More interestingly, loneliness can also be contagious. A recent study by Harvard University found that you actually affect you own personal health simply surrounding yourself with other happy people.
Experts agree that you must be aware of all the signs that your beloved family member might be feeling isolated or lonely:
- They may have suffered a loss of a loved one
- They complain about not having friends
- They have trouble falling asleep
- Their eating habits have changed for the worst
- Personality and/or behavioral changes have taken place
- They become â€˜clingyâ€™
- They complain about pain or health issues they might be experiencing
The best tactics to employ in order to counter some of these negative influences include:
- Spending some extra time engaging in fun activities
- Try and negotiate some new connections within the community with your elder family member
- Help others together
- Learn something new
Loneliness in our senior community can be very serious health issue, especially during the holidays. Fortunately, it is also the most treatable.