Growing Awareness of a Senior Epidemic: Loneliness

 In Mental Health & Wellbeing

Loneliness is harmful for people of every age, but seniors today are especially vulnerable. UCSF experts say up to half of older adults regularly experience feelings of loneliness. With an increasing number of seniors—seniors who are living longer—and our current global pandemic, this constitutes a serious public health problem.  As people age, they are more likely to relocate to a new part of town, a new part of the country, or a new part of the world, distancing them from previously established social networks. Then, when they develop mobility problems, sensory impairment, memory loss or other challenges of aging, they have a much smaller pool of support to help them maintain meaningful social connections. Now, with sheltering in homes for COVID-19 safety, more seniors than ever are hungry for social interaction and affirmation.

How do we promote social connections among seniors? It starts with our communities. Help seniors in your life locate and connect with senior services.  Social service agencies, senior centers and churches offer social opportunities, even during the current restrictions. Friendly neighborhoods are a plus, but our busy lifestyles and dependence on technology are keeping us inside our homes more than ever. Check on your senior neighbors by phone or from a safe distance on the front porch and offer assistance with basic chores and repairs.

Just as we plan for healthcare and financial well-being in our later years, we should also make a plan for social wellness. As our needs change, we can choose a living situation that wards off isolation—perhaps a supportive living environment or a retirement community. Professional care in the home is another good source of human companionship. Caregivers can also provide transportation, personal care and grooming to help their elder clients remain active and feel socially confident.

If you’re a senior, make donating your time and talents part of your plan for healthy aging. Almost everyone has something to offer others. Even if your health condition changes, you can make adaptations to continue your valuable service. “I have arthritis and I can’t drive anymore,” reports one senior volunteer. “But I still tutor young readers and participate in a prayer chain. I have an in-home caregiver who helps me get dressed and helps me get online to serve others. You could say I benefit from assistance to help me assist others!”

Have an interest in serving seniors in our parish community?  Contact Leah Harris, Pastoral Care at 408-997-5110

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