Many believe that the advances in communication technology have put distance between us and made us lonelier, and this reality hits older adults the hardest. But there are things that contribute more to loneliness, such as time itself.
For an older population, the passing of time contributes more to loneliness as children leave the house, old friends move away, and our social circles begin to shrink. And all around us, people are just too busy working and tending to their own families to find the time to visit with elderly parents and relatives.
The latest National Poll on Healthy Aging says about a third of seniors are lonely and its physical effects on health can be profound. But the purpose of revisiting this is not to talk so much about what it does but how to change our patterns and reconnect for a healthier, happier life.
For many older adults, it’s challenging to step outside of oneself and recognize when we are suffering from loneliness. We can so easily get into a routine of daily life in which it’s difficult to see how loneliness has become an invisible force shaping what we do and don’t do.
That’s because loneliness is the gradual accumulation (or loss) of little and big things in our lives happening over time. While many of those things are happening to us, the truth is our brains are responding in ways that misinterpret social signals. This can work to accelerate both feelings and physical manifestations of isolation.
Being Proactive to Combat Isolation and Loneliness
If you don’t feel fulfilled as a person, then it’s time to become proactive about combating seen and unseen isolation habits and the resulting loneliness that may be affecting you. Developing a positive mindset can start with a single step to foster the attitude you want in life.
Here are several things you can do to kick start your move away from isolation and loneliness that are easy ways to turn a small action into a lifestyle habit.
Take up a Hobby
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve ever had any hobbies or left them behind in your youth, you can revive them or start for the first time by choosing among the things that interest you. Gardening, arts and crafts, puzzles, writing, learning a new musical instrument, and much more can be antidotes to loneliness.
Take a Class or Join a Group Focused on Something That Interests You
Taking a class or joining a group dedicated to something that interests you is a great way to share and build relationships based on common interest. Many hobbies can be learned and started in a class or group.
Get Out and Explore Your Community
Merging physical activity with interaction can be a great way to increase health and combat loneliness, so if you enjoy walking, get out and explore the community on foot. Going to parks, areas with shops and other safe spaces can get you around others while getting you some exercise.
Look for Great Volunteering Where You Live
Volunteering around issues important to you is a great way to get involved by going out and assisting others with organizing special events or activities in your community. You’ll feel satisfaction from helping others, interact with like-minded and diverse people, and open new opportunities for fulfilling interactions.
Adopt A Pet
It’s not for everyone but having a pet in your home can provide a strong emotional connection that helps to combat loneliness and isolation. There’s nothing like someone in your life that depends on you and cares about you to quell loneliness.
Embrace Simple Technologies for Connecting
There are many types of new plug-and-play technologies that help mature adults maintain and develop social support networks via the internet, special tablet computers, and even virtual assistants. This is a great way to connect with groups as well as distant friends and families to rekindle feelings of connectedness that drives away loneliness and isolation.
Consider Active Adult Living
Many of the activities we’ve discussed can be enjoyed through active adult living communities and senior centers that offer activities from hobbies to discussions to wellness and exercise among many others. At a senior living community, individuals can make new friends, engage in activities that enriches their mind, body and spirit, activities such as exercise classes, cooking classes, trivia games, field trips, etc. Active Adults can select from a large program of activities based on their interests and level of activities desired.
These are only a few of the many ways you can start down a path of a connected and more fulfilling life as you age. The beauty is that it’s easy to get started, and each one will lead to more opportunities to connect with others and lead to a happier and healthier life.