Loneliness is a feeling that can overcome you at any age, but it’s something that many seniors struggle with as they age. In addition to feelings of sadness and isolation, loneliness can also have a negative impact on your overall health. In fact, research has shown that when it comes to top aging issues, loneliness can now be more harmful to your health than smoking or obesity.
And for lonely seniors, the holidays can add another layer of complication and sadness to an already difficult situation. With family living so far away, a looming caregiver shortage and upgrades in technology allowing people to have less human interaction, it’s no surprise that loneliness is becoming something of an epidemic. Thankfully, not all is lost. It’s possible to get help for lonely seniors, however, sometimes that might require you to make the first move.
Find A Penpal
This past summer, The Washington Post published a heartwarming story about a lonely 90-year-old woman in Park Hills, Missouri, reaching out to her 37-year-old neighbor. The younger woman, Marleen Brooks, came home from work one day to find that a note had been slipped under her door. The message was just a few lines:
“Would you consider to become my friend. I’m 90 years old — live alone and all my friends have passed away. I am so lonesome and scared. Please — I pray for someone.”
She was genuinely touched by her neighbor’s plea for help and decided to take cupcakes over to her the following day. Wanda Mills, the elderly neighbor, was so happy to see her and they ended up chatting for over an hour. The two ended up striking up a friendship, which gave Ms. Brooks an idea. She decided to post about her experience on Facebook, and encouraging people to sign up for a new group she was starting called Pen Pals for Seniors, which pairs eager volunteers with older people who want to correspond by mail. There are currently over 7,000 participants in the Facebook group, which has touched the lives of lonely seniors nationwide.
Don’t be shy this holiday season; send a note to a neighbor or sign up for a Pen Pal service to help you feel less alone in your daily life.
Sign Up For A Nonprofit Service
There are some great nonprofit organizations that have been formed in order to help lonely seniors thrive independently at home. Seniors Helping Seniors is one of those organizations and was launched in order to connect both volunteers and care recipients over the age of 65. When you sign up for Seniors Helping Seniors, you can participate in a variety of services that range from companionship, to light housekeeping, to running errands, to dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
Another great nonprofit organization that provides help for lonely seniors is Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly, which is “committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly.” The organization, which relies on the good-will of volunteers, provides free “long-term companionships to provide greater well-being and stability, promote independent living and instill a sense of belonging” among lonely seniors.
You can sign up to either be a volunteer or receive care at one of these organizations. If you don’t have a local chapter of the aforementioned nonprofits in your neighborhood, you can visit Elder Helpers, which “aims to match volunteers with elders in need of help within their own community.”
Adopt A Pet
It may seem like a burden to care for a pet when you might be struggling to care for yourself, but pet therapy has been proven to improve social, emotional and even cognitive function in lonely seniors. Furry friends can provide help for lonely seniors in unexpected ways--they provide companionship, affection and activity. Many lonely seniors report feeling happier, less anxious and an overall improvement to their lives.
There are many local nonprofits that connect seniors with pets, but if you would like a nationwide resource for pet adoption, Petfinder is an excellent option. Since their inception 20 years ago, Petfinder has helped to connect 25 million pets find a new home via adoptions.
Connect To Others In A Non-Traditional Way
A medical alert device might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about services that provide help for lonely seniors, but some people end up using Medical Guardian’s products for non-emergency services.
With the simple push of a button on your Medical Guardian medical alert device, you will be connected to a friendly voice on the other end of the line, even if it’s just to say goodnight to someone after a hard day. Senior loneliness is only one aspect of aging issues that pop up over time and there is incredible value in having a safety net to keep yourself protected, no matter what.