Humans are social beings. We need to share our needs, wants, loves, fears, thoughts and experiences with other people. Social, physical and emotional contact are essential to our everyday life.
As we age, these life-fulfilling forms of contact may be reduced by the loss of loved ones. Also, health issues that limit mobility, lower energy levels and decrease mental acuity may make sustaining relationships much more difficult. The result can be a loss of companionship, along with an increase in isolation, that leads to stress, depression and/or loneliness. In addition, there are studies that link the lack of social support to a greater instance of dementia and to heart trouble.
To avoid these pitfalls, seniors (and their caregivers) should focus on maintaining the life-fulfilling forms of contact and nurturing personal relationships…as well as reestablishing them when they are lost.
- The share of older Americans who live alone rose steadily for nearly a century, but since 1990 has gone down. This is largely due to women ages 65 to 84 increasingly living with their spouse or their children.
- The likelihood of living alone for older men and women (ages 85 and up) has grown since 1990.
- More men (70%) than women (45%) age 65 and over lived with their spouse in 2015.
- Twice as many women (36%) as men (20%) age 65 and over live alone.
- Women’s share of those living alone has fallen significantly over the past quarter century – 79% in 1990 to 69% in 2014.
As you get older, it can be more difficult to find new companions and fend off loneliness. Here are some helpful “camaraderie” suggestions.
- Turn to family and reach out to friends.
- Look inside to your faith and participate at your church, temple or mosque.
- Focus on common interests. Join activities, clubs and classes offered at community and senior centers. And volunteer your services. There are plenty of organizations that would welcome you and your expertise.
- Get involved. Active participation in any of the above suggestions increases the odds of people gravitating to you.
- Love a pet. Critters offer companionship and joy. Pet therapy can help people who suffer with depression, dementia, etc.
- Go professional. Caregiver, day care and hospice services provide company and care.