Loneliness in Older Adults

Loneliness in Older Adults

April 21 2023 TalktoAngel 0 comments 1262 Views

Socially isolated people can develop loneliness due to many reasons, including becoming older, not having the same level of involvement in their family, leaving their workplace, the loss of loved ones and spouses or due to health issues or disability. Whatever the reason it's easy to feel isolated and vulnerable, which could cause depression and a decrease in physical health and wellness.

Someone who's lonely struggles to reach for help. There's a stigma attached to loneliness, and those who are older tend to not ask for assistance because they possess too many feelings of pride. It's crucial to recognize that loneliness can become a problem for anyone of any age.

Social Isolation and Loneliness

The term "loneliness" is the feeling of social isolation or the subjective feeling of lonely. Even though those with no social interaction might be lonely but loneliness and social isolation typically do not appear to be related in a significant way. The expression "social connections" is, in fact, the most commonly used term used to describe the relationships and interconnections between humans, and it originates from and is utilized in broader usage. In 1979, Berkman and Syme discovered the strong connection between social relations and mortality, and consequently, life expectancy. In addition, there has been extensive research into the notion of social support which is real or perceived accessibility of resources offered by other people. 

In recent years, it has seen a renewed emphasis on loneliness as the leading risk cause for health. Social isolation and loneliness among older people are serious mental health issues, leading people to view those as "vital warning signs" that older individuals should be aware of. Studies have consistently demonstrated that social loneliness and isolation can have a profound impact on mental health, physical health, and mortality, specifically for people who are elderly. Actually, the risk of dying from loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes every day. The lonely are 50 percent more likely to die young. Social isolation and loneliness are seldom thought of or discussed in the health and mental healthcare environments. They are, however, one of the most easily modifiable risk factors that contribute to morbidity and mortality.

Effects of loneliness

The long-term effects of loneliness and social isolation can be linked to a broad variety of cognitive, physical and mental health issues which include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Substance use
  • Suicidal ideas and suicide attempts
  • Cognitive decline
  • Dementia progression
  • Stroke
  • Premature death

Health-related effects can be attributed to both directly affecting the body's physiological system (e.g., increased inflammation, tension, impaired immunity system function) and indirectly through negative health habits (e.g., low physical activity levels or nutrition, or poor sleep). Lack of belongingness and loneliness is one of the main factors connected to suicide. However, social support is a major safeguard against depression and suicide.

How to recognize loneliness in older adults

The signs of loneliness are evident in the older

  • Change in appetite

If someone close to you begins to eat less food, or is less interested in food it could be an indication of feeling lonely. It is also possible to be lonely if you overeat since feelings of loneliness when not with someone may be mistaken for hunger.

It can be a sign of anger, particularly for older adults who are at a loss for being lonely and aren't confident enough not to speak to family members. It can also be a result of individuals feeling unloved, ignored, out of the decision-making process or ignored and are all causes of being isolated. Although anger doesn't always manifest in the form of yelling or arguing or arguing with a friend, but a loved one can be quiet, unengaged or even negative.

According to research, loneliness can affect sleeping patterns. The loneliness of a person can result in people having less good sleep and also signs of insomnia, like finding it difficult to sleep or being tired and angry more often. People who feel lonely will prefer to stay in bed, but being unable to sleep. An elderly man is sleeping light in the morning

  • An increase in buying habits

It has been discovered that people who are lonely may be inclined to shop more frequently and invest in things they don't really need. Changes in their shopping habits could indicate that your loved ones are lacking social connections, and is looking for a way to spend time with friends.

  • Taking frequent hot baths

The majority of people think of physical warmth as comfort. That's why so many older people turn to warmth to substitute for social connection when they feel isolated. A tendency to take more hot baths or showers or keeping the heat on during warmer weather could be an indication of loneliness.

  • Increase in Internet usage

We may see the internet as a wonderful option for our more technologically-savvy family members to remain connected however, once it is the sole method for an elderly person to connect with other people, it could be a sign of the feeling of loneliness. A Australian study revealed that people who were lonely and relied on the internet to connect with people they had never met for example, through online social networks were more likely to experience a high amount of emotional isolation.

How can you assist those who are feeling lonely?

Begin with one conversation at one time. It can be difficult to talk about loneliness. Someone who was older and was surrounded by a large group of acquaintances throughout their lives and had a successful job, or was the head of their family, could be embarrassed or even painful to be lonely as they grow older. Being available to listen when they're ready or reassuring them that things will improve might seem like a small step however they can be a huge difference to the way a loved one is feeling.

Pets' companionship also provides seniors with an opportunity to be responsible for the well-being of a living thing. The research of The Blue Cross highlights that the time spent with pets can help lower stress and relieve emotional stress. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) used extensively by the leading top psychologists in India on TalktoAngel can ease the burden of depression and anxiety by finding and rationalizing negative thoughts. Research suggests that simple CBT exercises, like writing down your thoughts and feelings, along with breathing techniques and relaxation techniques may aid people who feel lonely. CBT will not be suitable for everyone, which is why it's crucial to seek the guidance and assistance from an Online Counsellor through Online Counselling.

Contributed By- Dr (Prof) R K Suri, Best Clinical Psychologist, Gerontologist & Life Coach & Mr. Utkarsh YadavCounselling Psychologist

 



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