Isolation During Winter Months Can Be Serious for Seniors
Winter weather makes life unpredictable for all of us. However, when you combine the physical and cognitive challenges so many seniors face, you truly have serious possible health and safety issues. Walking outdoors in winter weather can be treacherous for anyone, especially seniors. They may be afraid to go out of their home or to tackle the winter snow or ice to see their friends or family. Seniors that used to be active and suddenly find themselves unable to go out whenever they wish can get lonely.
Loneliness, as a result of lack of social contact, is a leading cause for poor physical and mental health among the elderly leading to early death. When loneliness sets in it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, over eating, under eating, excessive drinking, depression, heart disease and other debilitating diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis and glaucoma. People who are lonely are twice as likely to experience a decline in daily activities. Health deterioration in the elderly who live alone and have few visitors is less likely to be noticed and followed up with medical attention.
Risk Factors for Elderly Loneliness
- Women are more likely to experience loneliness
- The older the individual is, the more lonely they may be
- A person living alone
- Poor economic situation
- Poor outlook on health
- Infrequent contact with relatives and friends
- Adult children not living in close proximity
Dealing with Loneliness
Below are some ideas for ways to encourage social interaction between a senior and others.
- Learn programs like Skype to communicate with family and friends
- Keep socially active by joining senior center activities
- Daily exercise can ward off depression
- Keep ongoing communication even if it is just a daily 5 minute call
- Take up a hobby
- Adopt a pet – pet ownership can reduce feelings of isolation
- Ask friends and family to visit or call on a schedule so there is some contact every week
- Go on outings near other people: movies, shopping, restaurants, library, etc.
- Have more family get-togethers
- Reach out to neighbors, congregation members or former coworkers you think might be experiencing the season by themselves. Call them, email them, knock on their doors. A quick check-in can go a long way.