The causes of loneliness are many. Loneliness in old age arises especially when the family environment changes rapidly. Illness, death, or separation can trigger fundamental changes.

For older people, their own family is often a central point of reference for them. Your children, grandchildren, and spouse fill the space of your social life. However, if your children drift away or go on with their own lives, much of the social interaction fades away. And if, in addition, their spouse dies or there is a separation, older people run the risk of being left alone.

However, illness or mobility limitation, for example as a result of an accident, can also lead to loneliness in older adults. Older people often isolate themselves in the event of illness, and if the illness is permanent, it can have fatal consequences.

Those who are only partially mobile due to illness or accident rarely leave the house and therefore withdraw from all social interaction.

Social isolation may be less frequent at younger ages, but it is even more strongly associated with poor health conditions and behaviors than at older ages.

Risks of loneliness for older adults

Several studies have shown how risky loneliness is for older adults. An American study recently showed that loneliness can have the same negative impact on health as risk factors such as smoking and being overweight.

But most of all, loneliness can greatly increase the risk of developing depression. Once an older person is caught in this cycle, it is often difficult for them to escape. Also, any existing symptoms and problems are exacerbated by depression.

Thanks to this, the affected elderly man withdraws further, isolates himself and often enters a dangerous downward spiral. The most important thing in this case is to consciously counteract the feeling of loneliness and do something about it.

The impact of loneliness in old age

The health impacts of loneliness and social isolation among older adults are widely recognized. Despite this, there is no consensus on the possible causal nature of this relationship, which could undermine the effectiveness of the interventions. [¹]

Loneliness negatively affects the quality of life in old age and the existence of chronic health problems and lack of hobbies are strong predictors of loneliness.

Older people living alone should be assessed as a high-risk group and therefore policy makers and health workers should be aware of the factors that can affect loneliness. To increase the quality of life of the elderly population and the psychological well-being of the elderly, social support systems should be taken into account and older people should be encouraged to participate in social activities. [²]

Advice against loneliness

There are many things an older adult can do to keep social isolation at bay and avoid loneliness and isolation as they age. Coping with loneliness is easier than you think when you look at what activities and habits you can get involved in.

Reaching out to family and friends

Perhaps the simplest advice against loneliness is spending time with family and friends. A family dinner on Sundays, a weekly coffee meeting with best friends, soccer night with friends, are just a few examples of joint activities that fill the week with joy and counteract loneliness.

Attend senior meetings

If your circle of friends is limited and you don’t have a family within reach, senior meetings can be a good way to find a social connection. These meetings take place in many different places.

Churches, retirement homes, and other charitable institutions are often the right place to go. During afternoon games, coffee gossip, or field trips, older people can brainstorm with others their age and make friends.

Buy a pet

 It is no secret that pets have a positive impact on people’s well-being. Why shouldn’t older people also benefit? A pet keeps company and provides comfort in lonely hours.

It also gives its owner or owner the feeling of being useful. If you don’t want to buy your own pet, you can also consider adopting from a shelter.

Volunteering

If you want to occupy your time with something meaningful, volunteering may be an option. Whether it’s being a moneylender grandmother or grandfather, kitchen helpers, or working in non-profit associations. With so many options, there will be a suitable activity for everyone. Many people find a lifetime job in their volunteer work that makes them feel fulfilled and happy.

Find a hobby

Nowhere is it easier and faster to connect than in a club. Music club, carnival club, or sports club – Combine common interests. In this way, the elderly can not only do something for their social life, but at the same time they can also do a fun activity. If you want to play sports, you can do something for your health in a sports club, a gym or in special fitness courses for seniors in the adult education center. A private garden can also be a rewarding leisure activity.

Start a diploma

 You are never too old to learn something new, so goes the well-known phrase. Go ahead and learn anything you have always wanted to study or if you want to continue your education in a certain area you also have the opportunity to do it in old age.

Travels

Discover places in the world with trips for seniors. That is the dream of many older people. If you had too many commitments in your professional life or you had a family to support, you can retire at your leisure after retirement.

If you are alone and cannot find a travel companion, you can join group tours specially designed for seniors.

Change the life situation

 A change in the general situation of life can be an effective method to counteract loneliness in old age. The most suitable way of life depends on several factors. The most important thing is how physically and mentally fit the oldest is, how high is his level of independence and how much space he needs for himself.

Possible lifestyles for seniors are, for example, assisted living, shared housing for seniors, or a nursing home. However, the ideal will always be the company of your loved ones. 

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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