Supporting Older People with Loneliness

We all feel the need to interact and be social with others – it’s human nature! So, when we don’t enjoy that interaction, it’s normal to experience feelings of loneliness. But, as we get older, feelings of isolation can become more prominent.

According to recent research carried out by Age UK, there are over 1.4 million chronically lonely older people living in England. These feelings of loneliness can be damaging to our health, with studies showing it can be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

It’s therefore paramount that we all can spot the signs of loneliness so we can support our loved ones as much as possible.

What causes loneliness? 

Loneliness is a feeling that stems from a lack of interaction with other people, often leading to low moods. Those emotions may not always stem from simply being alone, it can be due to a lack of meaningful connection with those around them, and not being able to see loved ones.

For older people, loneliness can be caused by a range of reasons. For some, it can be down to the distance between their family members. This could be the physical distance that prevents them from seeing them often, or due to life taking its course in terms of other commitments.

For others, it can be because they can no longer pop out and see their friends. Due to age and health reasons, we all become more vulnerable and often less mobile, so travelling and meeting up can become difficult.

Those friendships could also be harder to nurture with others moving away, and some people will struggle with communication itself due to health issues such as dementia. In addition to this, retirement can leave us with many more hours of the day to fill, which can make these emotions feel much stronger.

Identifying loneliness in older people

With so many different reasons, it can be hard to detect and prevent our loved ones from feeling lonely. However, there can be some warning signs that we can all be wary of.

For example, when chatting with your loved one, pay attention to what they’re talking about and how they’re acting. Some older people begin talking more when they start to feel lonely in a move to overcompensate. For others, the signs may be in what they say as they may imply you don’t see them or talk to them enough.

Loneliness can change behaviours too, so if you notice your loved one begin to act more extroverted, they may be feeling isolated. Similarly, see if they act out of character in other social situations, specifically ones where they’re usually reasonably comfortable as they may be trying to get more attention.

Also, ask about their friendships with others. Loved ones may find it a struggle to keep up with their existing friendships, or even make new ones with people they may meet.

How to help older people combat loneliness

If you’re worried about your loved one, there are plenty of ways in which you can help.

Start locally and see if you can find clubs or community groups that may be of interest. Local community centres are often a good place to look as they frequently host craft groups and meetups. Day centres could also be an excellent route to go down. Here, you can meet others, enjoy a range of activities and even benefit from day trips.

There are also plenty of befriending services available. For example, both Age UK (0800 055 6112) and Independent Age (0800 319 6789) offer regular befriending calls. The Silver Line (0800 470 8090) also provide befriending calls, alongside a safe space to discuss how they’re feeling.

In some instances, loneliness can be a sign that a person may need more support which can be accessed through care homes. Those living in a care home will be able to access all of the support they need to live comfortably and healthily, while also being able to access a community in which they can socialise and bond.

Churchfields Care Home is dedicated to going above and beyond in ensuring residents feel happy and content. Our team host regular activities which give the opportunity for connecting with others and our carers spend one-on-one team with everyone to ensure they feel cared for and supported.

If you’d like to hear more about our Cassington-based home, our team would love to speak to you. To contact us, call 01865 881440, and keep up to date with the latest news on our Facebook page.

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