How to Engage with Seniors Who Are Suffering from Loneliness

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has brought countless swift changes to the way that we have been living. In particular, the lockdowns experienced in many countries as well as quarantine and self-isolation recommendations have left a lot of people without adequate amounts of social interaction.

Those who are at higher risk for negative outcomes related to COVID-19 are also, unfortunately, the ones who are most often affected by the isolation that is being encouraged. Seniors in particular are having a difficult time maintaining proper socialization amid the current landscape. The following will break down some of the things you can keep in mind while you’re engaging and interacting with the seniors in your life to help reduce feelings of loneliness.

The Effects Of Loneliness

Foremost, you might be wondering why managing loneliness is so important. Many people intuitively understand that feeling lonely isn’t fun, but given the health risks associated with coronavirus, they might think loneliness is a fair price to pay for health. As it turns out, loneliness is also really terrible for your health. Studies have found that feeling lonely is just as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Lonely people are 50% more likely to die than those who are not lonely. Being lonely reduces the strength of your immune system, increases inflammation (which affects many chronic illnesses and increases daily pain), and makes you less able to handle stressors (which is also linked to increasing your risk for multiple chronic diseases). Loneliness is something that should be taken very seriously by everyone at every age.

Interact In Ways That Feel Safe

In many cases, face-to-face interactions need to be severely limited because they increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Experts at UpliftingMobility.com emphasize that there are alternatives. Phone calls are an excellent place to begin; just hearing the voice of a loved one can cause biochemical responses in the body which reduce feelings of loneliness. If the seniors in your life are comfortable with trying out video calling, this can also be an excellent option. Take the time to write letters or emails and include photos and videos of what the kids are up to. If you and they are comfortable with it, have socially-distanced meetups where you bring a lawn chair and sit on the front lawn while the senior in your life sits on the porch. You can bring a coffee and have a nice conversation from a safe distance.

Quality Of Social Interactions Is Better Than Quantity

We all know that you can still feel lonely with other people around. Loneliness isn’t automatically fixed by physical presence. Mental and emotional presence is also needed to help ease the suffering associated with loneliness. The connection and the strength of the bond are what truly matters when you’re combating feelings of loneliness. During your interactions with seniors, be sure to turn off your phone and offer your undivided attention. It might also be a good time to bring up some of the things they can be doing to reduce the effects of isolation when you’re not around if there’s space in the conversation. A few little tweaks in one’s lifestyle can make a big difference when it comes to their mental and emotional well being.

Genuinely Ask How They’re Doing

Most of us have had bad days and so we know the difference that an authentic question can make in our day to day lives. Ask how the seniors in your life are doing. Ask if there’s anything you can help with. Ask what’s been on their minds lately. Listen to their answers. Sadly, being a good listener is something that we have been losing touch with culturally. Some believe this is because our digital devices are zapping our attention spans and this probably is part of it. Whatever caused our weak listening skills, practicing effective listening is the only tried and true way to improve the skill. 

With the above considerations applied, you should be able to find ways to engage with the seniors in your life. You might have to try a few different approaches before you discover what works for you and the seniors in your life. If you suspect depression or another serious mental reaction to what’s going on in the world, speak about it. Encourage the senior in your life to speak to a medical professional as well. Loneliness is a serious health problem and can result in lasting damage to one’s well being, quality of life, and health.