As we all age and circumstances of life (retirement, loss of family and friends, financial concerns, failing health and mobility) take their toll on our daily lives, loneliness becomes more of an issue. Everyone has moments where they feel lonely but when those “moments” add up to a major amount of time, it is definitely time to initiate some changes.
Research now shows that persistent loneliness has a progressive negative effect on physical and psychological health. As the individual becomes lonelier and then does less physically and mentally, it sets up a cycle that will deteriorate that individual. Loneliness can actually increase the risk of premature death in individuals over the age of 50 by 14%.
Loneliness is not always easy to detect by the individual, family, or friends. Here are some warning signs:
- Spending hours alone—reading, TV, computer use
- Anger or envy when others around you are happy
- A sense of dissatisfaction when you are spending time with other people. You can have a feeling of loneliness even when you are surrounded by other people.
Current research has linked loneliness to elevated blood pressure, increased stress and anxiety, impaired immune system, and a decrease in mobility. There has been a long time link between loneliness and depression. However, you can be lonely and not be depressed. Research also shows that the greater the degree of loneliness, the more fragmented and less relaxing the night’s sleep. Over a period of time this could have serious consequences.
Here are some tips to deal with loneliness:
- Make a point to meet with friends and share more details about yourself to secure a more honest link with another person and to express inner feelings that when shared don’t seem quite so insurmountable.
- Reach out for “small” connections, such as with the postal person, service worker, a stranger, smile and say a friendly word to a stranger.
- Get involved in a meaningful activity with a philosophy similar to yours. Reach out to the events of the organization and talk and share thoughts from casual to more intimate. Volunteering is such a good way to stay connected.
- Don’t allow yourself to withdraw when life hands you a significant change, such as death of a love one, retirement, health issues. Discipline yourself to reach out to meet a friend for lunch or a volunteer function. At first you will need to force yourself to reach out.
- Consider a pet or volunteering at an animal shelter. Animals are very receptive and responsive to human feelings.
- Plan a regular physical activity out of your home—walking in your neighborhood or mall; using your wheelchair or scooter to go to a nearby coffee shop. Physical activity is one of the best and cheapest ways to physically and emotionally feel better. And while you are out and about, find something to laugh about.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at my web site, ptsue.com; my office (951)369-6507; or my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. My goal is to help seniors keep healthy and moving. I welcome all questions and/or comments.
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