Human beings are social creatures, so our connection with others is essential for our survival. We need constant interaction with other humans for us to thrive in our environment. Face-to-Face interaction is at an all-time low, while mobile communication is the highest it has ever been. Meaning you can be alone but not feel lonely. It is also possible for you to be in a group of people and be lonely. And although being lonely and being alone are different terms, they are interrelated. Being alone is objective physical separation from people. Loneliness is the subjective distressed feeling you get due to being detached from others. Being alone can often lead to loneliness, which becomes a problem, especially among the older generation. We need to connect with our elders.
Social isolation is at epidemic levels among our elderly population.
An estimated 14 million older people live on their own. Living alone could result from losing their place as the family hub, retiring from work, spouses and friends’ deaths, or even because of a disability or illness. Loneliness is not a direct symptom of being alone, but the feeling of isolation can have many adverse effects. Loneliness leads to depression, cognitive diseases, heart disease, and many other health complications.
Love, care, and attention are things we all need, it doesn’t change as we age.
We all need to seek new interactions with others and maintain relationships with the people around us. However, our elderly population will greatly benefit from continuing to seek new interactions. One way to help with loneliness is to take every opportunity made available to smile. Remind our elders to watch funny movies, videos; do things that are exciting with the people they love. Start conversations with people. Get to know the people around them and invite them for a meal, even if it is virtually for now.
Maintain the relationships they have already made by regularly making an effort to connect. Some resources can help our elderly population get more familiar with using smartphones and computers if they aren’t already. It would be great to make friends with people who live around them as they could regularly visit and could get involves with the community events. You could also sign them up for GeboCall and provide them with a monthly budget to genuinely connect whenever they need to speak to someone. “The misery and suffering caused by chronic loneliness are very real and warrant attention. As a social species, we are accountable to help our lonely children, parents, neighbors, and even strangers in the same way we would treat ourselves. Treating loneliness is our collective responsibility,” said Stephanie Cacioppo, Ph.D.
If you have an older person in your life, you should continuously check up on them and make a habit of visiting them.
A little thing could go a long way when it concerns feelings of isolation and how we connect with our elders.
Carla Perissinotto, chief of geriatrics clinical programs at the University of California at San Francisco, said about the effects of loneliness, “Increased rates of cardiovascular disease, worsened diabetes, increased risk of dementia — the effects are pretty profound.”
We must all remember that even though loneliness affects all ages, we have become more isolated as we grow older in America, more than ever before. We cannot forget our elders and connecting with them will also ward away the lonely in our lives.
Wishing you The Gift of a long, healthy life,