Feelings of loneliness can happen to anyone, but did you know that seniors who feel lonely have a 59% greater risk of mental and physical decline?
Loneliness is a growing epidemic in our society, and many adult children are wondering how to spot the early warning signs when it comes to their aging parents.
It’s not always obvious, even to a child or relative, that their loved one is feeling lonely. In fact, the person may not even recognize it yet themselves. Age, life changes, and other factors can all influence an older parent’s feelings of loneliness and social isolation. But there are some key signs to watch for.
- Restless sleep. If your parent is complaining about being more tired than usual or has had recurring incidents of poor sleep, talk to them about how they are spending their day. Research has found that the lonelier a person feels, the more fragmented their sleep becomes.
- Increased buying habits. Has your mom or dad started buying more material goods than usual? It’s been found that lonely people increase their spending habits. This is usually to compensate for lack of social connections or because they are looking for something to do.
- Changes in the neighbourhood. Long-time friends and neighbours moving away as well as changes to the houses in the neighbourhood or community setting can stir feelings of nostalgia and loneliness in the elderly.
- Lack of appetite. Although a change in appetite is normal as we age, however, if you notice your parent is eating even less than normal, they may be experiencing feelings of loneliness.
- Excessive and long hot showers or baths. Researchers have studied the link between physical warmth and social connection, and have concluded that some people use physical warmth as a substitute for social ties.
- Change in frequency of phone calls. Whether they’re now calling more often or less, a change in the frequency of phone calls can be a signal of social isolation. They feeling to need to reach out and speak with you more often may be obvious, but a decrease can actually signal the same thing. Loneliness can beget loneliness, so pay attention to your loved one’s phone patterns.
- Loss of driving ability. Driving gets us from point A to point B, and losing that ability can make your parent lose their social connections as well. If your mom or dad has lost their ability to drive, help them look into alternate arrangements to keep their social life on track.
- Mobility issues. Along with driving, the development of mobility issues can lead to lack of social engagements. If your parent isn’t able to get around as easily, if they are experiencing pain or need assistance in the form of a walker, they may find it more difficult, and become less likely, to get out and about. Speak with your parent, their doctor, and a physiotherapist to see how improvements could be made or for alternate suggestions.
- They have other friends that are lonely. Loneliness is contagious. If your parent is talking to you about someone close to them – another relative, a friend or neighbour – that is lonely, they may start to feel lonely themselves.
- Increased amount of time spent at home. This could be due to loss of driving ability, mobility issues, or just because they don’t know where to go or what to do. If your loved one is spending an increasing amount of time at home without the company of friends and family, take it as a warning sign.
Amintro is the social app designed exclusively for those 50 plus. We are not a dating site! What we do is help older adults connect with confidence online and then head out to explore their community together.
If you think a parent or loved one is showing signs of loneliness, we can help. Membership to Amintro is free and your family member will be able to use our app to find friends with similar interests, and build their social network.
Click here to read about Helping Older Parents Overcome Loneliness.
By Christine Tompa