Five ways seniors can overcome feeling socially isolated

Approximately one-fourth of the senior population is affected by social isolation and loneliness, which has a significant impact on mental and physical health.[1]

 

NSW Seniors Week runs from the 12th-23rd of February and is dedicated to celebrating the role seniors play in the community and the contributions they make.

 

NSW Seniors Week also raises awareness of the challenges many seniors face, social isolation being one of them. Many factors can contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation, whether it be illness, disability, distance from family or friends, the passing of a spouse, or simply lacking an emotional connection with others.

 

“Seniors are prone to feeling socially isolated, and can find it challenging to reach out due to the stigma around loneliness,” says Martin Warner, Founder of Home Instead Senior Care Australia. “It’s important to remember you are not alone. Loneliness can impact anyone, despite their age.”

 

Martin shares his top five tips for overcoming feeling socially isolated:

 

Get involved in community events

“Local activities happening in your area are a great way to stay connected with others. Whether it is joining a club, gaming group or taking part in weekly trivia nights, these activities are perfect opportunities to meet like-minded people.  Community centres also offer fantastic programs and services to connect with others, such as art and cooking classes to learn new skills or fitness classes to stay active.”

 

Volunteer with a local organisation

“Feeling like you have a lack of purpose can result in feeling socially isolated, which is why volunteering is one of the best ways you can make use of your time. Research some organisations in your area that could use your help and make use of your skills and give back to those in need. Whether it is volunteering for your local church, school, animal shelter or charity, these opportunities can help you make the most out of your life and meet people who share the same values as you.”

 

Connect with family and friends

“When experiencing feelings of loneliness, it is easy to start thinking no one wants to spend time with you. However, loved ones would most likely enjoy your company and be delighted by an invitation. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to friends or loved ones, tell them how you’re feeling. Taking initiative to develop a relationship with your neighbour, or using technology to stay in touch with family who live a long distance away can help you feel socially connected again.”

 

Prioritise a healthy and varied diet

“Social isolation can lead to diet problems such as a loss of appetite or weight gain or loss. Additionally, over 60% of people aged 80 and over either already are, or are at risk of becoming malnourished.[2] This can lead to reduced energy and mental health issues which impacts feelings of social isolation. Eating an array of nutritious meals, staying hydrated and keeping fit is important to maintaining a healthy and social lifestyle.”

 

Grab a friend and take up a new hobby

“Hobbies are a fun and cost effective way to stimulate your mind and inspire creative thinking. Hobbies that encourage frequent interaction with others are a great way to help with feelings of isolation. Whether it’s joining a book club, regular walks with a friend or learning a new instrument, these hobbies encourage meaningful social interaction and contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle.”

 

For more information - www.homeinstead.com.au

 

[1] www.aph.gov,au

[2] Landeiro F, Barrows P, Nuttall Musson E, et alReducing social isolation and loneliness in older people: a systematic review protocol BMJ Open 2017;7:e013778. Doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013778

 

12 February 2020.