Before the global pandemic, loneliness in the elderly has been one of the leading elderly mental health issues that have been cause for concern. In a post-COVID world, the effects of social distancing in older adults are more of a concern than ever. There are many health risks associated with social isolation and feeling lonely. It can be exceedingly challenging for seniors, who are in a high-risk group when it comes to COVID-19, to weigh the dangers of SARS-CoV-2 risk and social isolation. Read on to learn more about the health risks of social isolation and depression in the elderly, and how you can help incorporate social distancing and elderly activities so that seniors can be safe and still be social.
Loneliness in the Elderly: What Are the Mental Health Risks?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has posted that a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report says that over one-third of adults age 45 and over feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults 65 and over and considered to be the elderly in isolation. Keeping in mind that these reports were published before the spread of COVID-19, it’s likely to think that these numbers have risen in the wake of the pandemic. The CDC reports that there are many health risks associated with social isolation and the elderly, including:
- Risk of premature death
- A 50 percent increased risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease
- An increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Higher rates of depression and suicide
Unfortunately, many seniors are considered “at-risk” for COVID-19 and may not be able to participate in the social activities they once enjoyed, such as activities at the local senior center because of age and other comorbidities. Preventing social isolation in the elderly during the pandemic can be a tough task. Because the effects of social isolation in the elderly can be serious, relatives should seek elderly loneliness solutions to help keep parents stimulated and active.
Social Distancing with Elderly Parents: Combating Loneliness in the Elderly
There are a few activities and things you can do with social distancing and elderly relatives, both virtually and in-person, to keep in touch, keep them mentally stimulated, and to try to keep loneliness at bay. Some ideas include:
- Social media. You may have to write out a step-by-step checklist to get mom or dad on Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger, but social media is a great way to help keep lonely seniors in touch with friends and family.
- Facetime. If your relatives have an iOS device, Facetime is a good way to help combat loneliness in the elderly. Similarly, if they have a computer or Android, Zoom or Google Hangouts works too.
- Playing games online. Challenge mom or dad to a game of poker or spades, or another game they may like to play online.
- Meeting safely in person. Provided you are able to distance and everyone is masked, it’s okay to take a quiet stroll with mom or dad if they are able. If they are in an assisted living facility, you may have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to visit.
- Email. If mom and dad are wary of meeting in person and they don’t understand the complexities of social media, old-fashioned letters or email is a good way to stay in touch and combat social isolation in seniors. Because the internet has been around for a few decades, many seniors are familiar with how to use email.
If everyone has been recently tested and you are sure it’s safe, invite mom or dad over for dinner if possible. Just make sure they are the only people you invite, and clean your home well beforehand.
For more tips on how on preventing social isolation in the elderly, or for information on life-changing mobility products, such as wheelchair ramps, which can help elderly patients become more mobile, contact Williams Lift Co. today. We want both patients and their caregivers to live their best lives.