About 28% (12.5 million) of older persons live alone in the U.S. (8.8 million women, 3.8 million men).
While AARP reports that nearly 90% of people over age 65 want to stay at home for as long as possible, how do you know whether the senior is alone by choice or by circumstance?
Neighbors and emergency responders often are the first to detect isolation, from mail piling up to snow-covered walks in the winter or unmowed yards in the summer.
Reasons for social isolation may include:
- Death of a spouse
- Lack of transportation
- Mobility challenges
- Living in a remote location
- Inability or unwillingness to interact with others
- Language barriers
- Low income
As the number of seniors living alone continues to rise, there are some ways to help. Give them a reason to get dressed in the morning by scheduling a weekly visit, lunch date or activity. If they are unable to drive, offer to pick them up or arrange public transportation when possible.
Encouraging them to attend their place of worship provides companionship and spirituality that goes a long way toward lifting isolation and depression.
Even caregivers can be at risk for isolation
Senior adults who may have a caregiver are still at risk. Caregivers themselves can be prone to isolation when caring for a loved one becomes overwhelming.
Caregivers typically work alone, and have little time for friends or family. While the caregiver is there to ensure their loved one eats well, takes medications and receives medical care, they may neglect to do the same for themselves. In these situations, caregivers and loved ones both benefit from outside visitors. Offer to relieve the caregiver one day a week. Bring a meal to share with both the senior adult and the caregiver or take them out for lunch to give them both a change of scenery.
Notify neighbors to help keep an eye on the senior and/or the caregiver. Not only does it give others a sense of purpose, but also splits the responsibility and offers more opportunity to interact with those at risk for isolation.
Social media, email and texting are other ways to remain in contact when it becomes difficult to visit every day. A friendly voice or message reminds the senior and caregiver that others love them and think about them, even when they are unable to visit.
Another option is to consider a move to a senior living community with a variety of lifestyle options and healthcare services like Friendship Village Columbus. If you would like to speak with a housing specialist or schedule a tour, please contact Friendship Village Columbus at (614) 890-8282 or https://www.fvcolumbus.org/contact-us/