The last couple of years have taught us many things. The most important thing we've kept close to heart is the importance of human connection.
Connection is powerful. Connection with family and friends, connection with the world around us...it makes a definitive impact on our wellbeing and overall health.
While many of us found ways to connect and pass the time when social distancing was at its peak, others, especially older adults and the disabled, struggled with isolation and loneliness.
And while the pandemic may have highlighted the vulnerability of these groups, the fact is that isolation and loneliness, for seniors especially, is an issue that has been prevalent for many years.
Alder & Owl wants to make a difference.
Why is Senior Isolation such an issue?
Isolation and loneliness in seniors is both physically and mentally dangerous. Research suggests that the risk of mortality from loneliness is on par with smoking 15 cigarettes a day - that's shocking!
While overall health tends to decline as we age, when you add loneliness and isolation to the mix, existing health conditions can worsen.
Bad habits can emerge or worsen. From lack of activity to unhealthy eating habits, seniors in isolation can lose the drive to stay active and engaged. Medications and a natural decrease in appetite can result in not eating or eating less healthy, balanced meals.
Risk of cognitive decline. Studies show that mental decline happens much faster in seniors that are lonely or isolated and the risk of Alzheimer’s nearly doubles. “Exercising” the brain can help to keep it healthy and slow down age-related changes like dementia. And while physical activity is good, cognitive improvements can also come from simple artistic activities, such as painting or knitting and even listening to music.
What can you do?
If you have a loved one that lives some distance away and you are unable to visit as often as you’d like, be aware of some of the signs that can arise from someone that is experiencing loneliness or isolation.
- Are they calling you more often?
- Have their sleep habits changed?
- Are they eating properly?
While you can’t always change the living situation, there are ways to help reduce their isolation and feelings of loneliness. Having a caregiver visit a few times a week can help fill the gaps when you can’t be there. Services to help their home feel more pleasant like professional declutter services for example. There are also local senior centres that have outreach programs for seniors that can’t travel on their own and adult day care centres that have social activities.
And for those times in between, including gifts for milestones, you can let them know you are thinking about them by sending one of our carefully curated gift boxes that can contain activities to help stimulate their brain, along with other items to brighten their day.
Our gift boxes were designed just for this purpose - to let family and friends we may not see so often know how much we care. Sending a thoughtful gift just for them will make their day and keep you connected.
What are some things you've done to help seniors at risk of social isolation? Share with our community in the comments below.