The holidays can be very difficult for vulnerable people and are known traditionally to cause loneliness. As senior citizens grow older, they tend to self-isolate, but they may just miss their spouse or feel self-conscious about their memory. Identifying loneliness in someone you love is important because it can cause a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, and agitation. Loneliness can also result in medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Because of its long-range effects, keeping an eye out for the warning signs of loneliness is vital to protect your loved one. The most common signs of loneliness may include the following:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Lack of hygiene and disheveled appearance
  • Unwillingness to make eye contact
  • Social isolation

Feeling Lonely is Understandable

Loneliness is not an illness or a medical condition. It’s entirely natural, affecting approximately 25% of the population at any given time. but because it is common, we sometimes risk disregarding it completely. Identifying loneliness as opposed to simple personality traits is critical – is someone experiencing social alienation, or do they just want to be alone for a little while?

Chronic vs. Transient Loneliness

Transient loneliness is thought to be temporary and easily alleviated. Chronic loneliness, by contrast, is considered more permanent. Transient loneliness often is caused by external factors, while chronic loneliness originates in a person’s own mental state.

Symptoms of Chronic Loneliness:

  • No meaningful emotional relationships
  • Overwhelming isolation
  • Low self-esteem or low self-worth
  • Social engagement causes exhaustion
  • Persistent depression
  • Increased bouts of intense agitation

Chronic loneliness is not to be taken lightly and should be addressed as early as possible. Without intervention, loneliness can affect physical health as well as emotional health. Anxiety about feeling isolated can lead to depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Medical Ailments Related to Chronic Loneliness:

  • Compromised immune system
  • Sleep disorders and dysfunction
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression

Identifying Loneliness in Senior Citizens

Loneliness often originates from changes in environment or lifestyle. Moving your entire life from a familiar home to a senior residence can cause stress, anxiety, and sometimes even loneliness. Seniors may also experience a decrease in physical abilities, fear of aging, or a loss of perceived independence.

Senior citizens are the most vulnerable population when it comes to being affected by loneliness, isolation, and depression. The death of a spouse, close friends, or loved ones – as well as a loss of mobility and overall wellness, can result in loneliness. Isolation from social engagements for extended periods of time can compound anxiety and social alienation. For older adults, this influences even everyday events such as physician appointments, family events, social engagements, or church groups.

Social interaction and engagement are crucial in fighting loneliness. The more a family member can introduce their loved ones to social settings, and help them to build relationships, the healthier they can become. Other ideas to help your loved one include:

  • Attending community events
  • Becoming involved at a church or worship center
  • Attending family parties and events
  • Attending grandchildren’s recitals and sporting events
  • Going out to eat at restaurants
  • Joining senior exercise classes
  • Utilizing video chat platforms such as Facetime or Zoom, texting & emailing
  • Establishing a game night or bridge club

Human beings are social and interactive by nature. We require meaningful relationships to thrive, and our bodies and minds become unhealthy when we fail to cultivate these connections. If you have a senior loved one experiencing chronic loneliness, depression, or isolation, keep the lines of communication open, invite them to social events and be there when they need you.

A Banyan Residence is a senior living facility in Venice, Florida. We provide assisted living and memory care residences and offer an engaging and safe environment for our residents to not only live but thrive.