Have you noticed your parents beginning to stay at home more or are no longer participating in the activities they once enjoyed? Do they sound lonely when you call? Is there little mention of seeing friends or interest shown in getting together with others?
Loneliness and social isolation can become more common as we grow older and their impact on our physical and mental health can be detrimental. But older adults may begin to experience either or both through loss of family members or friends, companions moving away or mobility issues.
If your parents are becoming more withdrawn or lonely, it’s important to take steps to help them become active and engaged once again.
The difference between loneliness and social isolation
Although the two are similar and can be related, there are differences. Loneliness is defined as the distressed feeling of being alone or separated from others, according to the National Institute on Aging. Social isolation is a lack of contacts or having few people to interact with on a regular basis.
It’s important to recognize, however, that you can live alone and not feel lonely or socially isolated. You can also feel lonely while being surrounded by other people. If you want to learn more about preventing loneliness or social isolation, read our blog: “The Difference Between Loneliness and Social Isolation”.
The negative effects of loneliness on health
Those who are experiencing loneliness are at an increased risk of health problems, which can include the following:
- Heart disease and high blood pressure – Those who are lonely often don’t exercise regularly. They also may not eat as healthy or get the amount of sleep needed to support their body and brain functions. These are all factors that can increase their risk of heart disease and blood pressure.
- Chronic inflammation and reduced immunity – Loneliness causes emotional pain as the person loses the connection to others and to his or her community. This type of pain can activate stress responses in the body, which in turn may increase vulnerability to some diseases.
- Decreased cognitive function – People experiencing loneliness may also begin to have decreased brain function and an increased risk for dementia, especially for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Decline in ability to perform everyday tasks – Spending a majority of time alone can contribute to a decline in being able to drive, take care of financial affairs, manage medication and prepare healthy meals.
- Increased risk of depression – Those who experience longer periods of loneliness or social isolation are at an increased risk of developing depression, including feelings of hopelessness, sadness, restlessness and fatigue.
Source: The National Institute of Health
How to fight back against loneliness
- Strive to be healthy – Help your parents develop a regular exercise routine, spend time outdoors, eat healthy and get enough sleep.
- Increase social interactions – Make sure your parents have the opportunities to attend events and spend time with others.
- Participate in activities – Staying active can help promote better emotional health and reduce loneliness.
- Engage in life and your community – Encourage your parents to become an active participant and join an organization or become a volunteer.
- Meet and make new friends – One of the best steps your parents can take is to get to know others and build strong relationships.
The benefits of friendships
While avoiding loneliness supports good health, making friends can provide even more advantages, such as:
- Increased sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost in happiness and reduced stress
- Improved self-confidence and self-worth
- Support through difficult times
- Avoiding or eliminating unhealthy lifestyle habits
Source: Mayo Clinic
Finding companionship in assisted living communities
When you consider the above features that can help a person avoid loneliness and social isolation, you’ll discover an assisted living community provides everything needed to enjoy those advantages.
The benefits of community life often include fitness centers or exercise classes, planned social events and monthly activities where your parents can increase their interactions with others while taking advantage of improving their health – and having fun.
But perhaps one of the most helpful advantages is the opportunities available to meet and make new friends.
If your parents are currently living at home alone, they may be finding it harder to attend social functions or spend time with others. They may also be experiencing loneliness from the loss of some of their companions and find it difficult to make new friends.
An assisted living community is designed to promote and support these new relationships. All the activities and events provide a natural setting for your parents to meet their neighbors and other residents and are available right outside their door.
Your parents will also quickly discover how much they have in common with their fellow community members as they share their stories and life experiences. They may soon be creating many life-long friendships.
Life at a Northbridge Assisted Living community
We understand the value of friendships and provide several opportunities for our residents to get to know each other and enjoy the benefits of camaraderie and fun. Whether it’s at one of our activities, social gatherings or crossing paths in our common areas, your parents will soon begin establishing relationships that are meaningful and add quality to their lives.
Of course, we also provide a helping hand with daily tasks, delicious and healthy meals, private residences and support an independent lifestyle. If your family is considering assisted living, we invite you to visit one of our Northbridge communities.
We offer innovative and quality senior living solutions across the New England area, creating both home environments and programs to encourage freedom and lifestyle choices. Our goal is to support your loved one to live life to the fullest and we’re here to answer any of your questions about our senior living communities.