According to the University of Michigan, the lack of daily interpersonal interactions has caused a spike in reported loneliness and isolation in older Americans. Social isolation has been linked to cardiovascular and inflammatory issues as well as hormonal and sleep-related disturbances meaning that loneliness can cause severe impairment or even death. Aging expert, Lisa M. Cini, offers tips to safeguard the emotional wellness of older Americans, combat loneliness, and ensure they receive the companionship they need.
“We often think of seniors as adaptable to their surroundings, spending the day knitting in a rocking chair or sitting in front of the TV,” says Cini. “However, social distancing measures have created havoc for our aging population with over half of people over the age of 50 saying they feel isolated, which threatens the mental and physical health of our loved ones. Research shows that loneliness can be as challenging for health as obesity or as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
Lisa’s emotional wellness tips include:
Setting up daily and weekly check-ins.
Coordinate convenient check-in times for everyone for either Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Loop, WhatsApp, & WeChat. If possible, do a video call as it’s better to see a smile than hear one, and easier for those with hearing loss or visual impairments.
A handwritten note goes a long way.
Write a card, send flowers, or start a pen pal system between an aging loved one and the family. By having a visual reminder in addition to texting and video chatting, older adults will be able to be reminded of their support system all day long.
Encouraging open and honest communication.
Foster a sense of understanding and empathy. Many older adults may be feeling different emotions, such as sadness, frustration, anger, or loneliness. By practicing patience and understanding, loved ones can better verbalize how they feel, and come to resolutions faster.
Getting them moving.
For older Americans, frequent movement and exercise gets the blood flowing and improves brain function, immune response and reduces depression. Certain devices, like an Apple Watch, FitBit, or Garmin can send notifications when an aging loved one is being active to address any family concerns about prolonged immobility. If possible, create a time where the entire family can go on a socially distanced walk, or meet at the park to catch up.
Planning a car party.
If near aging loved ones, consider getting some socially distant, face-to-face interaction through planning a car parade! Have family members drive by and hold posters with loving words of encouragement.
Giving mood boosting gifts.
One great way to target the blues and sleep issues is through Human Charger light therapy which helps generate more energy and alertness. Additionally, Hapbee is a wearable device and smartphone app that can make a user feel happy, calm, sleepy, alert, and focused.
Consider assisted living communities.
Researching the best options for aging loved ones who live alone or may need extra help. Communities like Belmont Village follow all safety protocols and health guidelines while providing residents meaningful social interaction, activities, and healthy meal prep in a nurturing community specially designed for mind, body and brain health.
“We’ve all experienced hardships during this time that have made it difficult to stay connected with our older loved ones,” says Cini. “By being kind, compassionate, and understanding we can help each other during this tumultuous time and assist our moms, dads, and grands in moving from fear to freedom.”
Lisa M. Cini is an award-winning senior living designer, President /CEO of Mosaic Design Studio and author of BOOM: The Baby Boomers Guide to Leveraging Technology, so that you can Preserve Your Independent Lifestyle & Thrive, The Future is Here: Senior Living Re-imagined, and Hive, The Simple Guide to Multigenerational Living: How Our Family Makes it Work. Go to Lisamcini.com to sign up for her blog. If you want to find the best tech products that help seniors Embrace Aging and Live Independently, visit BestLivingTech.com.