The holiday season is here! We hope that with each year passing since the start of the pandemic, we are getting a little closer to returning to our holiday traditions – particularly gathering for parties, family dinners and time with friends.
Although we long for the return of our old way of life before Covid, there is and always has been something difficult about the holiday season for many of us as we miss loved ones and memories of happier times. This is particularly true for older adults. In fact, forty-three percent of seniors report feeling lonely on a regular basis, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:
- Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.1
- Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
Nearly one-third of people 65 or older live alone. If they’re feeling socially isolated, they’re at increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke, depression, cognitive decline and premature death. Prolonged isolation can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Social Connection Is the Gift that Keeps on Giving
We know how important it is for seniors to feel connected to maintain their health and well-being. That’s why we offer residents a wide variety of group classes, activities and events. With a focus on wellness and a positive approach to senior living, we strive to make life at the Brookhouse Home merry and bright throughout the year.
The good news is, you can brighten the holidays for an older adult just by letting them know you care. All it takes is for you to reach out, connect and make time for the loved one in your life. We find the following list here with ideas gleaned from a report at Life Care Services. Follow these tips to banish the blues and make spirits bright for seniors dealing with loneliness.
Six Ways to Brighten the Holidays for Older Adults
1. Make Communication a Priority
While an in-person visit is the very best of all, but if you can’t see each other around the holidays, a call or video chat can lift the spirits and brighten a loved one’s day. If they’re on Facebook, encourage them to catch up with old friends they haven’t contacted recently.
2. Encourage Hobbies and Other Areas of Interest
Is there a hobby or interest your loved one would like to pick up again or try? Book clubs, sewing circles and adult education classes are great ways to rekindle old interests and meet like-minded people.
3. Go for a Walk
Exercise helps ward off anxiety and depression. Go for a walk around the neighborhood with the senior in your life. Joining an online fitness class is also a good way to get those endorphins flowing and get your mind in a better place.
4. Get in the Holiday Spirit
If you, or someone you love, is feeling less than cheerful, try a traditional remedy. Bake cookies, put on some holiday music, watch your favorite holiday movies, deck the halls, go see the lights in your neighborhood, or visit a place of worship.
5. Talk it Out
Though they’re more likely to suffer from depression, seniors are less likely to seek help for it. Remind the senior in your life that it’s okay to feel lonely and it’s okay to talk about it. Let them know you’re there for them. Talking about it can help them process their feelings.
6. Spend Time Together
Find ways to spend extra time with your loved one. It’s the greatest gift you can give this holiday season.