Helping Seniors Facing Isolation

As of 2017, there were 47 million seniors over the age of 65 in the U.S. The “baby boomer” generation makes up a large part of that and is constantly changing the face of the workforce in the country. About 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age each day. 

While many seniors live perfectly happy and healthy lives, it can be harder when the aging process starts to have a dramatic impact. According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, about one-third of seniors are lonely. Much of that loneliness comes from social isolation.

Seniors aren’t working anymore, they may not see friends and family as much as they used to, or they may have certain health conditions that prevent them from getting out and about — such as coronavirus-related stay-at-home mandates.

Unfortunately, loneliness and social isolation can pose serious health risks. According to the American Psychological Association, social isolation in seniors could contribute to: 

  • Poor sleep
  • Depression
  • Cognitive decline
  • Impaired immunity
  • Poor cardiovascular health

Unfortunately, the “bad news” continues. More than 80% of seniors live with some type of chronic health condition. In addition, there is an overall healthcare staff shortage in the U.S. with people in the healthcare industry retiring each day. As a result, some seniors may not be able to readily get the medical attention they need for pre-existing conditions or for the effects of loneliness. 

The good news is the situation doesn’t have to be so bleak. If you’re a recently-retired senior or you’ve been struggling with feelings of loneliness, there are things you can do to socially interact, get back into the world, and stimulate your mind. Let’s go over a few of these unique options. 

Explore Your History

There’s never a bad time to learn more about where you came from. Genetic testing and genealogy can help you to trace your ancestry. While growing up, maybe your parents told you stories about where you came from. Despite that, until you see it with your own eyes, you’ll never be able to experience the full picture of how your ancestors arrived here. You may even be surprised at what you find when the results come back!

In addition to tracing your family tree, genetic testing has multiple benefits. One benefit is that it will let you know of any genetic predispositions you may have including things such as heart disease, weight gain, or even balding. 

Genetic testing can even diagnose certain diseases: 

  • Parkinson’s
  • Celiac Disease
  • Late-onset Alzheimer’s

There are many genetic testing and genealogy companies you can work with to discover more about yourself. Working on finding more information about your family and your ethnicity can be fun, interesting, and mentally-stimulating. 

Take Up a New Hobby

One way to take care of yourself as you age is to actively take yourself away from stress-free environments. If the loneliness of being at home by yourself is causing stress, it could impact your health

Getting out of the house and reconnecting with others can often easily be accomplished by starting a new hobby. Consider your passions and what you might like to do as well as what you’re capable of doing.

If you’re looking for mental stimulation and conversation, you might want to join a book club or take an art or music class. If you want to stay active (which is especially important for seniors), try forming a walking or cycling group. Metal detecting can also be a fun hobby for seniors. It allows you to go exploring while being active. You can do it with friends, or, if you have kids or grandkids, you can get them involved in the treasure hunting experience. 

Get Back to Work 

One way to combat isolation and the depression that can come with it is to feel a sense of purpose. Just because thousands of people are reaching retirement age on a daily basis doesn’t necessarily mean they need or want to retire. If you’ve already taken that step, you don’t have to give up working completely. Instead, you might use this time as an opportunity to start a new career. 

Senior employment is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 40% of individuals over the age of 55 were either working or looking for work in 2014. Many seniors are in management or leadership positions. 

If you’re looking for something new to do, a part-time job could be a beneficial solution that allows you to get out of the house, interact with people, and have a daily purpose. Some of the best part-time jobs for seniors include the following: 

  • Tutor
  • Athletic coach
  • Bookkeeper
  • Virtual assistant
  • Transcriptionist

You can also work as a caregiver for those who are older than you or those who might have underlying health conditions and need assistance. Working with those in need can be extremely fulfilling, and if you’re helping people who are otherwise shut-in, you may be a source of light to others who are combating their own loneliness and isolation. 

While the statistics about seniors and isolation might sound grim, there are plenty of things the baby boomer generation can do to interact with others on a regular basis. Combating isolation can help you make the most of your golden years. 

Author: Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

Image Source: Unsplash