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How to combat the effects of loneliness in an elderly relative

Take a look at our tips to help combat the effects of loneliness in the elderly.

April 11, 2022

Elderly man alone

Research indicates that at least 1.4 million older people in the UK often feel lonely. With more than 2 million people over the age of 70 in England living alone, it can be easy for those in their later years to feel somewhat isolated and the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many normal social activities have been unable to take place for a sustained period of time.

If you have an elderly relative who lives alone, or you know they sometimes feel lonely, this article looks at some of the effects of loneliness on those in their later years and suggest some ways to help combat it.

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Common causes and effects of loneliness in the elderly in the UK

Experiencing feelings of loneliness is common and can happen to people at any age. Feeling lonely is something that often passes after a short time for the majority of people, but sometimes it doesn’t, and this can have a very negative impact on quality of life if it persists.

For many older people who live independently, loneliness can be a real issue – here’s just a few of the most common causes:

  • They may have been widowed or have lost close friends or family that they used to spend a lot of time with
  • They might have mobility issues which makes it more difficult for them to get out and about
  • They could have health considerations which mean they spend the vast majority of time at home
  • Sometimes any remaining family live some distance away or are not able to visit or spend time with the older person regularly
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, many community groups or events were cancelled for months or even years, so if this was usually something that an elderly loved one was involved in, this outlet was suddenly taken away
  • While technology enables things like video calls and some other ways of ‘virtually’ meeting with other people, lots of older people find using this kind of technology quite difficult, even if they have all the necessary equipment, and this can be a frustrating experience for them which adds to feelings of isolation.

Elderly social club

Everyone’s reasons for feeling lonely are individual to them, and some elderly people especially might not want to open-up and talk about their loneliness, so it can sometimes be difficult for family members or friends to realise the extent of the issue and how much loneliness is affecting them.

The effects of loneliness are also unique to every person experiencing it, as we’re all different, but studies show that some results of feeling lonely, especially over a long period of time, can include both mental and physical health issues, such as:

  • Low mood or depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Cognitive function decline
  • Alzheimer’s disease

 

Elderly loneliness solutions

If you have an elderly relative who has talked to you about feeling lonely or isolated and wanting to do something about it, there are lots of ways that you can help them to combat this.

It’s important to talk to your loved one about how they are experiencing loneliness and what they want to change, so you can offer ideas that are suited to the outcomes they want.

Some potential ideas for how to help lonely elderly people might include:
 

1. Talk to them about spending time on their own and let them know that you’re there for them

Not everyone is comfortable talking about their feelings, especially negative ones, but it can make a big difference for your elderly loved one who is feeling lonely to know that you understand some of what they are experiencing and want to be there for them in whatever capacity you are able.

Starting this kind of conversation can feel difficult, but we have some tips for talking about loneliness that could help. If you live locally, you could perhaps offer to visit or do something together on a more regular basis, or if that’s not possible, offering to call more frequently could also help them to feel less isolated.

2. Suggest a new hobby or interest that involves other people

If you have an elderly relative who spends lots of time on their own and feels a bit lonely as a result, a new hobby can help in numerous ways. Not only do hobbies have known benefits for physical and mental health in general, but they can also help with offering a social outlet if the hobby involves others.

Something like local crafting groups, book clubs or community gardening projects could tie into an existing interest that your loved one might have, or they might want to try something totally new, such as ballroom dancing or joining a community choir.

Elderly man using mobile phone

3. Help them with technology to better stay in touch with people digitally

Not everyone in their later years isn’t able to use tech devices, but some older people do find that it doesn’t come very naturally to them.

If your elderly relative struggles with using some modern technology, it can make them feel a bit cut off from those who are more easily able to take part in things like local chat groups and video calls. It can be easy for them to be shown how to do something on a smartphone or tablet, only for them to forget what to do as soon as you’re not there to help or talk them through it.

A good way to help with this is to write instructions down so that your relative can refer back to them later when you’re not there, and some smart devices could also help.

For example, a smart speaker can not only answer questions and play music on demand but can often also be used for voice calls once they are set up. Your relative might need some assistance with the setup process but after that it can make it much easier for them to make phone calls to contacts simply by asking the smart speaker to "Call Andrew", rather than having to use a mobile phone.

4. Find out about any local community projects, charities or services they can get involved with

Many cities, towns and villages already have existing projects or services running for those in their later years who might benefit from spending time with others. It could be a befriending service, a charity that matches volunteers with an elderly person to help with practical things like shopping trips, or groups that meet together regularly and do a range of activities.

Using search engines, like Google, or Facebook community groups can be a good way to find out what is available, and local community hubs, such as churches or community centres can also often signpost to these kinds of services too.

Elderly lady

5. See if they can get out and about every day if possible

Those who have mobility or certain health issues might not be able to but getting out of the house each day can be a great way to have some social interaction in your elderly relative’s local area.

Even walking to the end of the street and back can mean that your loved one interacts with neighbours or passers-by and just short conversations can make a big difference to someone’s sense of wellbeing and any loneliness they might be feeling. The daylight, fresh air and exercise can also be great for general mental and physical health.

6. Look into a personal alarm for peace of mind that someone is always there if needed

A personal alarm for the elderly is a device that they wear (usually around the neck as a pendant, but many can also be worn like a watch) that is constantly monitored in case of emergency.

If your loved one has a fall or another kind of incident, they can press the alarm button which alerts the response team, available 24/7, every day of the year, and they will speak to your relative to find out what has happened and whether any further help is needed.

At TakingCare, we have a wide range of different personal alarms that have various features and functions so that your loved one can choose the one most suited for their circumstances. This might include:

  • A fall detector, which will automatically detect if your relative has a fall in the home or garden and raise an alert.
  • A GPS personal alarm, especially useful if they spend lots of time out and about - it works anywhere and can give the response team your loved one’s GPS location if needed.
  • A monitored personal alarm means that there is always someone to reach out to, day or night, if your loved one needs some help or reassurance.

Have a look at the full range of TakingCare personal alarms.

Loneliness can be very difficult for your loved one to deal with, and you will understandably be worried about them when you’re not there. Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on how to help combat loneliness so that your elderly relative can enjoy a better quality of life, and you can have peace of mind that they have lots of positive things in their life and people to turn to if they need it.  

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure


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