Are you confused about how to live with loneliness and social isolation? You could be in self-isolation because you are infected, but there may be some other reasons why you’ve decided to stay indoors.
It was discovered that half of the population aged 75 and more live alone, and their isolation is caused by reduced mobility and less contact with family and friends.
A beautiful image of older age is of smiling elders spending their golden years with partners, family, and friends.
In reality, lots of seniors are living in isolation and alone.
The reports of the National Council on Aging shows that 1 in 6 adults ages 65 or older live in isolation, either geographically or socially.
AARP’s survey in 2010 shows that 25% of respondents of age 70 or older express that they felt lonely.
Using medical terms, loneliness has been connected to higher blood pressure and depression and increased chances of dementia as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
However, there are ways to deal with loneliness and social isolation. Continue reading this post!
What is Loneliness?
Loneliness is simply that negative feeling that we notice when the amount and quality of our existing social relationships cannot meet our social needs.
Since we are social beings, we are reliance on safe, secure social environments to live and survive.
When loneliness feeling kicks in, we notice increased feelings of vulnerability, which can affect our body as well as our minds.
Loneliness is popular, affecting about 1 in every 3 adults. And now that COVID-19 has shut down everything, people are now retired into their homes and leading to more physical isolation. Loneliness is exactly what many of us are probably feeling right now.
Relationships between Loneliness and Social Isolation
From the 2017 systematic review of forty (40) studies started from 1950 to 2016 and published in the journal Public Health, a great relationship was discovered between loneliness and social isolation and a poorer state of mental health which all need to mortality.
This is why it is vital to take care of your mental health while in this period of reduced social interactions.
In contrast, when you stay social but in non-conventional ways, you will be able to feel less isolated and tackle loneliness.
Overcoming Loneliness and Social Isolation
If you couldn’t go places or interact with many people socially during this time, you might be wondering what else you can do.
Here are some great tips on how to manage your feeling and win loneliness in times like these:
- Contact Family and Friends
Even if you have to place a phone call or video call (with a computer program or an app from your smartphone to see the person you are on with),ensure you keep contact with your family and friends.
Dr. Miller says virtual connections are still connections. Even just an instant text or seeing their face on a screen can improve your mood and well-being in general. Make contact with someone as part of your daily routine, like exercising or medicine.
- Get a New Hobby
Retirement is the best time to get new hobbies again, or just continue with existing ones. There are classes for retired and about-to-retire people on varieties of topics, such as botany, kitchen, gardening, scrabble, history, and wine tasting at the various places in Australia.
These classes often help in someone’s home, community center, or local library.
One other great organization is Men in Sheds and they offer different practical activities like bike repair, mending furniture as well as carpentry.
- Stick to a Schedule
Even as you are isolated at home, be sure to stick to your time as much as possible. Even though loneliness can feel endless, making efforts to make the day ‘business as usual’ will get you through it.
Begin each day with a plan of the actions you will take, keep a daily schedule of how you feel and the tasks you are performing, and also keep a log for symptoms in case you have an illness under management. These tracking systems will give you a sense of pro-activeness about the situation.
- Get into Books
If you like reading, you might like being a member of a book club. It can be fun and mentally healthy to talk about books with relevant people. You could start your group, and meet up with members every month, hosting it in turns in your house and provide snacks.
Or, you can ask for any existing book clubs from your local librarian. If you prefer to read with people around you, a lot of libraries give access and facilities for the seniors and those with limited mobility.
There are often certain audiobooks and large print books, and a lot of libraries hold events and readings as well.
- Be Active
Even though it is easier to concentrate on how to manage your loneliness and health directly during these times, we sometimes skip the fact that there is an interconnection between our mental and physical health. If you fail to exercise for weeks while in isolation, this will badly affect your ability to cope mentally.
Here are some ideas of in-home activities that you can start or continue doing to stay active:
- Practice yoga, Tai Chi, or in-home impact workouts with YouTube videos as your guide.
- Walk around your area (or walk on a treadmill if you don’t want to go outside, and you have one).
If you find tending to your garden too strenuous, it doesn’t mean the end for gardening. You can get a perfect match of a gardening partner from platforms like Garden Buddies and Garden Friends that matches seniors over 60 years of age.
It is a nice way to catch some cool breeze and gentle exercise and also rewarding to grow your vegetables or flowers. You can apply for an allotment at the local council if you don’t have a garden. These are often grouped, so you can interact with fellow gardeners, and maybe find someone who wouldn’t mind lifting your filled-up watering can for you.
Read our post on Benefits of Gardening for over 60s.
This allows us to make nice connections with people even as we establish a sense of purpose. According to studies, the advantages of regular volunteering are reducing loneliness drastically, so you should try it.
Volunteering Australia is the highest body in the nation and allows you to find available positions depending on your skills and location. Also, Go, Volunteer, are initiatives that have many online and remote volunteering opportunities that currently have openings.
- Be Creative
Georgina is a youth presenter and has been keeping busy, doing anything her hands can find to wind away time. “I have been practicing, studying and making music, interacting with my family and friends, watching TV shows and movies, baking, doing crafts, and reading”.
Another youth presenter, Natalie, has also been looking into creative hobbies. “I have been doing a lot of jigsaws, bought a candle and make kits, and learned how to properly fix my nails, cook fancy and delicious things for myself, baking my bread, getting much of exercise; and get out for short walks and fresh air. I’m doing a lot of reading, sitting in the sun on my balcony with a book in my hand”. Most of these things have been found helpful.
- Maintain Online Contact
If you are far away from your friends and family or going out to meet them is not an option, you can use Skype to stay in touch with them. Skype enables you to call someone on video for free, anywhere they are in the entire universe (as long as there is internet access at both ends) so you can see them when you talk.
Regardless of the friends you talk to whether old or new, there are sites designed on social media especially for seniors, like Older is Wiser and you can chat also with other people that have heart conditions using the BHF online community.
Many courses teach how to use computers and the internet and you will even meet people like you there who are also learning.
Here are some examples of online connections that you can establish:
- Joining and participating in topics of interest to you in Facebook groups
- Registering for online platforms about your hobbies or interests
- Joining and playing multiplayer games
- Registering for online sports games
- Connecting with Quarantine Chat, a service set up to help people to connect while in quarantine
- Joining online dating sites
- Board Games
These can be a nice way to interact with people and enjoy the fun. A lot of classic board games that we played in our youth are still common, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Puzzle, or backgammon. You can play and enjoy a good board game regardless of your age.
Some games are available in larger sizes, in case your fingers are nimble or your sight is not as functional as it was before. You can get details of local clubs online. Else, you can hit the nearest Royal Voluntary Service as they run activity and board game events.
- Become a Member of Heart Support Group
This is a friendly group, highly supportive local groups for those having heart conditions and their families. Activities of each group differ, but normally include exercise classes personalized for those with heart conditions and discussions about various topics.
- Locate Sources of Comfort
Looking for ways to be comfortable even with your feeling of loneliness can help to elevate your mental health. Here are some important ideas of comfort steps that you can follow even if you are lonely:
- Massage your foot or use a foot spa
- Take a bath
- Concentrate on your pet
- Cook healthy delicious food
- Read favorite books or watch favorite movies or TV shows
- Prepare a cup of herbal tea (relax with chamomile)
- Light scented candles (reduce stress with lavender)
- Practice sleep hygiene to be certain you are getting sufficient rest
Coping as a Senior during this Period – Wrap-up
Seniors (aged 65 and above) may be higher at the risk of loneliness during COVID-19. This group is mostly in self-isolation because of the fear of catching the infection, while also may not have enough supports in place to reduce loneliness feeling.
The Baby Boomers especially may be affected by this pandemic. Seniors can ward off loneliness feeling during this time by following these ways:
- Make regular calls to family and friends, so that they can interact with you and know your needs
- Request for help from family members or friends when necessary and be specific about what you need them to do
- Check to see if there are specific shopping hours for older adults in your location so that you can go shopping for food during the low-risk period when truly necessary.