Isolation and loneliness in seniors is a concern in every season, but the holidays can make it especially difficult. A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine points out that more than 30% of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly 25% of adults 65 and older are considered socially isolated.

The effect of isolation is extraordinary, from increased risk of premature death, to increased risk of dementia, increased risk of mental illness, and more. It’s crucial to know the warning signs of isolation and be equipped with the tools to intervene when a senior is displaying signs of isolation.

Recognizing Isolation in Seniors

Before relieving the isolation or loneliness a senior is feeling, you need to recognize it and know the warning signs or symptoms. A senior feeling isolation may display differently than another person, but the main signs include:

  • Lack of Interest, Withdrawal
  • Losing interest in personal hygiene
  • Poor eating and nutrition
  • Significant disrepair, clutter and hoarding behaviors

In addition to looking out for these warning signs, it is important to note changes and events in a seniors life can attribute to isolation. If seniors experience these things, they are at higher risk for isolation:

  • Change in living arrangements
  • Loss of a spouse or loved one
  • Chronic or terminal illness diagnosis

5 Ways to Relieve Isolation

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, relieving isolation may be a little more tricky while keeping seniors safe from COVID-19 transmission. With that said, there are plenty of ways to relieve isolation while maintaining safe distances and following regulations.

senior woman using cellphone

1. Address Risks of Isolation

Before tackling isolation, determine if there is a way to minimize or alleviate the cause of the isolation. Each seniors situation is different, but if there is a way to point to the cause of isolation, you may be able to help.

Some examples include:

  • Providing materials for incontinence
  • Planning a video call with family
  • Assisting with reliable transportation

Refer to these 3 ways to provide safe in-person visits

During the holidays, the reason for their isolation and feelings of loneliness may be related to missing a family function. Some plausible ways to alleviate this is by including the senior in family parties through video chat or encouraging family to send gifts in the mail.

2. Get them Gardening

Some particular activities are proven to alleviate isolation in seniors. Research shows horticultural therapy decreases feelings of loneliness which includes gardening and other plant-based activities.

While gardening is mostly considered a nice weather activity, it can be done inside and makes for a great gift for the holidays as well. Consider incorporating plants that reminiscent of the holidays like poinsettias or peppermint.

3. Host Small Group Programming

Consider intimate group settings for alleviating loneliness, especially during COVID-19 restrictions. Small group programming can take form in many different ways including modifications to your current roster of activities or by providing new forms of entertainment. A few modifications to consider include activities that allow for physical distancing, like a craft or individual trivia games. Due to changes in visitation, residents may also benefit from virtual programming and entertainment that allows them to engage in real time, like Eversound’s activity programming options. Subscribers have access to exclusive entertainers and games (think Name That Song and At Home Game Shows!) and additional programs designed to keep residents connected.

Already an Eversound member? Access Members Portal for Holiday Activity Programming

Not a member yet? Try a FREE sample program here!

4. Laugh Therapy

Encouraging laughter is a must at all times, but for those seniors experiencing loneliness and isolation, it can help their mood and outlook a lot. Studies actually show laughter (whether organic or self-induced), has a positive impact on mood and can even lead to a longer life.

So how can you get seniors laughing? Try laughter yoga! Laughter yoga (hasya yoga) has grown in popularity over the years. You can find free videos here: Chair Laughter Yoga, Laughter Yoga.

Another way to get seniors laughing each day is by introducing a comedy movie every week or sending out morning comics. During the holiday season, opt for light-hearted and funny movies and music.

5. Conduct Reminiscent Therapy

You might assume an isolated senior may not enjoy reminiscing on happy memories, but studies show the opposite. Reminiscent therapy has been proven time and time again to be a huge help in decreasing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Reminiscent therapy is for seniors to aid in memory recall, and look back on happy memories.

One study of 144 seniors found that during activities of reminiscing, seniors reported an improvement of mood, stress levels, and cognition.

So how do you do it?

  • Pull out old photo albums
  • Read the newspaper from their childhood
  • Reference their favorite music
  • Play music from another decade

Interventions are Critical

The anecdote to isolation is a sense of comfort and community. By knowing the warning sides and making changes or additions to the life of a senior feeling lonely, you are able to aid in relieving their isolation.

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