December 1st — For many people, December symbolizes the start of the holiday season, bringing with it the joy of good food and cheerful times with friends and family. But for many others, the holiday season is a reminder of their loneliness and isolation.
This is the case for many seniors, whether they live alone or in assisted living communities. When the holiday season comes around, these seniors can be reminded of engaging in family traditions or spending time with loved ones. For adults with no means to connect with their close relationships, this can have serious effects.
Studies show that feelings of loneliness and social isolation have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health. In fact, a 6-year study done by Perissinotto et al. found that loneliness is a predictor of both functional decline and death for adults over the age of 60.1
The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these feelings, with travel restrictions and safety protocols preventing many families from gathering and supporting each other in person. This was even more pronounced for seniors, who are more prone to feeling lonely and isolated for reasons excluding a pandemic.2
With that in mind, it is important to acknowledge that loneliness is not uncurable. There are ways to actively make a difference in seniors’ lives and help fight feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holidays.
- Pay them a visit
If you have the means to, and safety protocols allow, consider visiting a grandparent or older family member in your life. Spending quality time with a senior can reduce their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Share a meal with them or simply catch up if you have not talked in a while.
- Reach out to a senior
If you cannot physically see a family member or senior this holiday season, arrange a video call to chat with them. A digital visit can still create feelings of support and inclusion for seniors, and they may be more sustainable if you wish to make digital visits a regular commitment. For seniors with dementia, multiple calls in one day may be even more beneficial.
- Send a gift
Send something meaningful to a family member or loved one this holiday season to show them that they are a part of holiday traditions regardless of where they are. Gifts can be anything, like pictures of you or handwritten cards. If you plan on sending a gift to a senior with dementia, try to ensure that the gifts are left where they can be seen. This gives seniors small reminders of the people who care about them.
Regardless of how far away you might be, you can make a difference in someone’s life this holiday season. An action that may seem small to you, such as a phone call, might provide a senior with comfort and joy in an otherwise lonely and isolated time.
1. Carla M. Perissinotto, M. D. (2012, July 23). Loneliness in older persons: A predictor of functional decline and death. Archives of Internal Medicine. Retrieved November 2021, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1188033.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 29). Loneliness and social isolation linked to serious health conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html#:~:text=Older%20adults%20are%20at%20increased,chronic%20illness%2C%20and%20hearing%20loss.&text=Social%20isolation%20is%20a%20lack%20of%20social%20connections.