Many of us associate the year-end holiday season with festivities surrounded by friends and families, hot cocoa and cookies.
But for some older adults, the picture isn’t quite so idyllic. In fact, they might be quite lonely or feel left out. Friends, siblings and cousins pass away. Former co-worker lose touch. Faltering health prevents or limits trips from home.
Feeling sad and lonely isn’t just a state of mind. Studies have shown that social isolation increases risk of cognitive decline, heart disease and stroke.
So what can you do?
If you’re an older adult:
- Reach out to someone: a neighbor, a pastor, maybe a relative you haven’t spoken with for some time. A letter, e-mail or simple card can help you reconnect.
- Helping others can make you feel good about yourself. ElderServe has several volunteer opportunities. We even have an opportunity that’s perfect for individuals with limited mobility. All you need is a phone to be a TeleCare volunteer.
- Take advantage of a sunny day and go for a walk. Health professionals promote exercise as a way to beat back depression.
- Recognize that it’s OK not to feel festive this time of year. You are not the only one who feels this way. If your thoughts are especially dark, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 800.273.8255.
For the older adult in your life:
- Accept that Grandma or Dad might tire more easily and can’t stay as long at family gatherings. Arrange for them to leave early if they’d like.
- Recognize that older adults with cognitive impairments might find large gatherings confusing or frustrating. Allow for quiet time. And if your loved one can’t make it to a family gathering, consider fixing a plate of food and visiting them afterward.
- Offer to help your loved one address and send holiday cards – or maybe with holiday shopping.
- Take your loved one for a drive to see holiday lights.
- Engage your loved one in a simple holiday craft, and while you’re crafting, share family stories and memories.
- Consider whether ElderServe’s TeleCare, Friendly Visitor or Senior Companion program might help your loved one. (If you’d like to help more than just your loved one, our TeleCare and Friendly Visitor programs need volunteers.)
Don’t forget family caregivers for older adults, who often experience their own stress and isolation. The best gift you can give them might be respite. Ask if you can run errands or maybe sit with the senior so that the caregiver can take care of themselves.
Simply put, your time and companionship will be the most precious gift to a lonely senior.