Are you wondering how you can help the elderly or seniors fight loneliness? After some extensive research among seniors, I created this list with helpful activities to overcome loneliness for seniors. Let’s find out more!
1) Involve Lonely Elderly In The Community
When you’re involved in your community, you probably have fewer feelings of loneliness. People who are involved in their community have a purpose, which is also important to fight loneliness. I’ll discuss the reasons why having a purpose is important later in this article.
Being involved in the community means that you as a person matter to others. You can help each other, learn from one another and have fun together. However, in particular, seniors and the elderly struggle to stay involved in their community. Often because of social interactions that are declining, or seniors sometimes feel that they are a burden to the younger generation. The last example is typical for the Western world, where the opinions of the elderly don’t matter most in many cases. Luckily this is changing rapidly.
When we look at cultures where communities play a significant role in everyday life, older people are still involved. Loneliness among the elderly is something that almost never occurs when community life is essential. One of the best examples to understand the value of being part of a community is when we look at the world’s Blue Zones.
Blue Zones are areas in the world where the most centenarians live. In other words, where people get much older than average. A centenarian is someone who is 100 years or older. The blue zones are different areas spread out over the world, but the lifestyle among these communities are similar. Next to a healthy diet and having a sense of purpose (which we discuss later in this article), playing an active role in the community is an important thing that characterizes their lifestyle.
2) Help Elderly With Finding A Purpose
Fighting loneliness among the elderly, and in general, is all about creating a lifestyle that matters. One can do so by having a daily structure, enough social interactions, and a sense of belonging in their community. Another successful way to fight loneliness is by finding a purpose.
A lack of purpose is significant among seniors. Often, after retirement, seniors find it challenging to find their purpose again. Re-finding a purpose after retirement or as a senior can be challenging, but with the right steps, it will be a meaningful and inspiring process.
In my e-book, Five Steps To Happiness In Retirement, I share a helpful step-by-step guide on finding your purpose as a retiree. In fact, finding a purpose in retirement is the essential step to find happiness in retirement and during your senior years. You can get the e-book here.
Having a purpose means that you have something to live for. It’s what you do, but it can be straightforward. For example, your purpose is to help seniors fight loneliness.
For seniors, their purpose can be something like to stay fit, have fun every day, help other seniors with everyday tasks, or keep up with an activity like gardening.
Earlier I mentioned the elderly people in the Blue Zones, where people get much older than average. Another thing they all have in common is they all have a purpose until high age. In Okinawa, the Japanese blue zone, they describe this as their Ikigai. Simply described as their purpose, or what they do in life.
The book Ikigai, A Japanese Secret To A Long and Happy Life (available on Amazon), is about people living in Okinawa. It’s very inspiring to read if you want to learn more about creating a purpose and the blue zones in general.
4) Create A Daily Structure For Seniors
Having a daily structure is also important to fight loneliness. If you have something today several days a week, you have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It’s the same for lonely seniors. When they don’t have any activities planned, what is the reason to do something? The elderly might feel that they don’t matter anymore, and loneliness and maybe even depression are very close.
However, when seniors have a daily structure, they can avoid loneliness. A busy agenda creates an active lifestyle, which often involves social interactions. And these interactions fight loneliness.
Let’s take a look at two short examples, both from my family. First, let’s look at my parents. They are both retired and have a busy schedule of activities that they do both together and individually. Social interactions, sports, helping others in their community, and so on. All activities are planned, which means it’s easy for them to do.
My grandfather is 94 and lives in a nursing home because he got blind a few years ago. However, he’s not feeling lonely either. He made sure he planned all kinds of (community) activities in the nursing home to get in touch with other people. He even has sports activities once a week to stay fit!
How to create a daily structure as a retiree or senior is something you’ll learn in my ebook Five Steps To Happiness In Retirement, click here to get the book today.
4) Increase Social Interaction
The social circle of many elderly’s is declining over the years. While we age, we lose a lot of friends and people we care about. Sometimes because of unavoidable death, but also because of different interests in lifestyle and other things. It is important to keep up with different social interactions. Most of the time, we replace our social interactions during our lifetime. This comes naturally. However, when we get older, meeting new people is getting more difficult. Thus, having enough social interactions is also more challenging.
Social interactions for seniors are essential for a more healthy lifestyle. According to Harvard Health Publishing, having different social interactions outside of the regular standard of close family and friends is related to healthy aging.
The article of Harvard Health Publishing mentions that seniors with broader social interactions have a more active lifestyle, probably because they need to get out to meet up with other people. Social interactions also challenge our brains, which is another factor that is related to healthy aging.
So, having enough social interactions is maybe one of the most important things you can do to help seniors fight loneliness. Enough social interactions are not only fighting loneliness but also is related to healthy aging. In fact, having an active lifestyle is one of the pillars of the CDC when it comes to healthy aging.
5) Help Elderly With Finding A Hobby
Having a hobby is a great way to re-find a purpose and to stay active. However, it can be challenging for the elderly to find a new hobby when they feeling lonely. When you want them to fight loneliness, an easy step is helping the elderly to find a hobby.
A hobby can be all sorts of things. The most important is that you love doing it. If you don’t have fun with a specific activity, you can’t call it a hobby. The motivation has to come from yourself. Sometimes people forget what they love to do and struggle to find a hobby, which can result in loneliness.
An easy way to help the elderly finding a hobby is by doing different things together. Ask them what they used to like doing. You can get together once a week and start various activities. Cratejoy is a valuable platform to use for finding a new hobby.
When using Cratejoy, you can sign up for a subscription box that gets delivered every month. Every month you get new activities and crafts delivered to your home, so you can figure out what kind of hobby you like. A great way to (re)explore activities and hobbies! Cratejoy is also available as a gift, perfect for helping the lonely elderly! You can sign up here.
6) Promote Physical Activity
Having enough physical activity is not only important when it comes to healthy aging. It’s also a great way to fight loneliness. Simply because with a lot of sports you meet other people. So, if you want to help seniors make sure they get enough physical activity.
Of course, you need to adjust the amount of activity to the person’s current fitness level you want to help. It’s easy to find sports training for the elderly often close by.
Activities like swimming, hiking, and gardening are great activities for seniors to meet other people and get enough physical activity. Especially hiking and gardening are useful activities for seniors. You can learn more about why these activities are great for seniors in my articles;
- The Complete Guide Why Hiking Is Good For Seniors
- Why Is Gardening Good For Seniors? 10 Benefits For Seniors
7) Create A Healthy Diet
Reading this heading, you could think, what has a healthy diet to do with fighting loneliness? I can understand that, so let me explain this.
Having a healthy diet is vital for healthy aging. When you eat healthily, you feel much better. For example, when you went to a fast-food restaurant for dinner, you often end up having an ‘after-dinner dip’ and lack of energy. But if you had a healthy dinner full of fresh vegetables and unprocessed food, you feel much more energized. And when you feel more energetic, you also want to go out to socialize more. You simply have enough energy to meet other people. Which is helpful to fight loneliness.
That’s why a healthy diet is an essential factor in fighting loneliness. It can also be a great way to meet new people. Learning how to eat and cook in a healthy way with other seniors, for example.
8) Solve Underlying Problems
Sometimes, loneliness is an effect of an underlying problem. So, if you want to help a lonely elderly and you suspect different problems to be a factor, make sure to talk about this so you can help them solve their problems.
It’s recommended to finding professional help when problems are more serious. When someone is having financial or mental issues, it’s often better when they get the help of a professional to solve their problems. However, you can be the first step in the right direction and help them find a helpful professional. See your role as a supportive one so that they are not alone.
Problems among the elderly that cause loneliness can be of all kinds, just like with everyone. It can be because of the loss of a loved one or simply because someone has lost their feeling of belonging or purpose in life.
9) Get Them A Pet
Pets are great for seniors to fight loneliness. Taking care of a pet actually combines all the things we’re talking about in this article that help combat loneliness.
When you have a pet, you have a purpose you need to take for him/her. Taking care of a pet helps a senior to stay active. For example, when you have a dog, you must go out several times a day for a walk.
And these walks with a dog also help with getting enough social interaction. It’s often easier for people to get in touch when they have something similar to talk about. Dog owners love to talk with each other about their dogs, so it’s a great opportunity to get in touch with other people!
Having a pet around can also be comforting for a senior. Bonding with a pet helps you to feel happy. Someone can create genuine companionship with their pet.
In my article, 10 Scientific Based Facts How Pets Help Old People, you can find much more helpful information about the benefits of having a pet for seniors.
10) Consider Moving To A Retirement Community
My parents-in-law live in a retirement community. According to them, it’s a perfect place to spend time with like-minded people. My parents-in-law are both fit and healthy, so I asked them why they moved to a retirement community. They answered, “Because we love to spend time with people of our generation, and the fact that helpful facilities are close by is also great if we need them.”
Their retirement community is an apartment building, where everyone has their own fully equipped apartment. On the ground floor, there’s a community center where all the activities take place. However, when we visit my parents-in-law, it’s always busy around their apartment. Neighbors dropping by several times a day. They are the central point of social interaction in their community, luckily not lonely at all! Also, everyone is looking out for each other, another reason why people aren’t lonely in their community.
There are many different types of retirement communities with different facilities. Before you decide on a retirement community, it is important to determine which amenities and facilities are included and what you can expect in general. Read more about the benefits of a retirement community in my article What Should I Look For In A Retirement Community? | 15 Expert Tips.
11) Promote Mentally Challenging Activities
Having enough mentally challenging activities is evenly important when it comes to healthy aging as physical activity. To keep up with our brain’s health, we need to train it, just like we train our muscles to stay strong and physically fit.
Mentally challenging activities help to fight loneliness in several ways. As an elderly, you stay fitter, and with a sharp mind, it’s easier to communicate with other people. Also, the different activities seniors can do to train their brains often involve social interaction.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, getting out of your comfort zone when training your brain’s health is important. Many seniors do so by going back to school, which is related to slow down cognitive aging. You’ll simply learn more because you challenge your brain with new activities that it’s not used to.
12) Improve Their Independence With Helpful Products
Helpful products for seniors like hearing aids, walkers, mobility alarms can help seniors to fight loneliness.
For example, when a senior’s hearing is declining, it’s getting more challenging to have conversations with other people. Hearing aids are then helpful to improve hearing and have fun conversations again.
Or, when walking is getting more difficult, it might be helpful to get a walker for mobility improvement.
There are many different products available that can help fight loneliness and improve mobility and independence among the elderly. When you need a senior product, I recommend using the website, senior.com, which offers all the helpful products a senior needs.
13) Go Outside More Often
Being outside is related to feeling better. When you go outside, your vitamin D levels rise, and you often are physically active. If you feel better, you also have more energy to socially interact with other people. Which is helpful to fight loneliness.
So if you want to help a lonely senior, take them outside. Maybe find a hiking group with other seniors where they can join and meet other people of the same generation as well.
Another great activity that’s taking place outside and has many benefits to fight loneliness among seniors is gardening. Gardening often takes place in groups and is easy for seniors to join. Learn more about the benefits of gardening in my article, What Are The Benefits Of Gardening After Retirement?
14) Introduce Mindful Activities
Meditation and mindfulness are both important activities to get a clear mind. Both activities help you to accept your thoughts and be more active. It’s something you need to experience for yourself. I’ve been meditating for 10 years now. It helps me to avoid stress, sleep better, en get more energy. These are all beneficial factors in different situations, for example, when I want to socially interact with other people.
When a lonely elderly feels stressed, you might want to try doing mindful activities. It probably helps them avoid stress, and in return have more energy to go out and meet other people. A great way to try these activities is in groups, for example at a local sports center. Where someone can learn these activities and meet other people, which is great to fight loneliness.
15) Introduce Seniors To New Technology
Staying up to date with new technology is important to keep up with what is going on in the world. Many seniors still find it difficult to use a smartphone or their computer. It helps them if you explain how things work. Using a new smartphone and social media can be great tools for a senior to avoid loneliness. They can stay in contact with friends and family that aren’t close by.
My grandfather which I told you earlier about, also uses a smartphone. Since he is blind, his phone is voice-activated, so it’s easy to use for him. Also, he uses a smart home device like Amazon Alexa. These tools help him stay in touch with his family. He’s contacting us several times a week via his phone. But he can also follow the news, listen to his favorite music, and listen to podcasts and audiobooks using his smart home device. It helps him to stay socially connected with other people because he can easily communicate via these devices.
Why Helping Seniors Is Important
Helping seniors is important because you do good for someone else. Imagine that you are at a senior age, and you end up feeling lonely, with no one around to help you. Give that situation some time to think about.
I think no one wants that, right? It’s funny that both my husband and myself feel actually more connected with the elderly. We have so much fun when we socially interact with them. There’s no hidden agenda. It’s just about having a great time together.
So, go out there and help your parents, grandparents, or other seniors. It doesn’t have to be family members alone. It can also be your neighbor or someone you used to know from work. It really doesn’t matter. Maybe you want to start volunteering in a retirement community to help out seniors. When you’re investing some time, you give a great time to other people and help them feel important again.