If each of us tries to put ourselves in the place of our parents, in everyday reality, it will be easy to understand the depression of the elderly. One of the main causes of depression in an elderly person is loneliness and its effects. So to improve the situation you have to understand the reasons for loneliness.
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Mother Teresa
Loneliness among elderly
Many elderly people feel lonely and sadness as an integral part of their daily routine. This widespread phenomenon has many components and aspects. While social isolation relates to the objective quantity of social relationships in which a person is involved.
Loneliness reflects a person’s subjective perception of his life. Thus, one may experience loneliness even if it seems to be surrounded by people, or alternatively be socially satisfied even if it has only a limited number of social connections.
Lonely people may find it difficult to create new social relationships or to fill their daily routine with meaningful activities and content.
Reason for Loneliness
“I don’t fear death so much as I fear its prologues: loneliness, decrepitude, pain, debilitation, depression, senility. After a few years of those, I imagine death presents like a holiday at the beach.” – Mary Roach
The feeling of loneliness can be due from various reasons such as:
- Retirement from work:
- Retirement creates a transition from an active lifestyle to a moderate way of life. The person after retiring has a lot of free time, that he doesn’t know how to fill.
- Due to retiring sometimes the social circles are reduced because he doesn’t meet the people he used to meet every day, there may be a sense of lack of vitality, belonging and contribution to society and more.
- Decreased functioning due to physical or mental disability: When the person become ill or has a decreased motor or cognitive abilities, sometimes it can prevent him from going out and making social contact, social meetings he was forced to disconnect from his friends and thus becomes lonely.
- Widowing and death of friends & family:
- Remaining alone after the spouse with whom they have shared most of their lives has passed away. The spouse remained at home alone and everything he did together and even with his partner was no longer possible.
- Not only does the death of the couple affect the experience of loneliness among the elderly, but naturally, they need to cope with the loss of many people from the social and family circle of their generation.
- The loosening of the connection with the children: The children, who are at a stage in their highly stressful life cycle, with the intensity of tasks on all levels of life, are lacking the time to contact their parents.
What loneliness can cause a person who experiences it?
“The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.” – Norman Cousins
It’s correct to say that loneliness is not a disease. However, it is very likely to cause depression and lead to self-neglect and from there the way to get sick is very short. Studies have shown that:
- People who perceived themselves as isolated experience more fatigue, reduced sleep quality, and chronic pain.
- There was also a linkage between the experience of loneliness and hypertension, reduced of the immunity system and disruptions in hormonal balance
- Lonely old individuals are at a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s than their peers who enjoy a socially satisfying experience
- Lonely elderly people are prone to a decline in health behaviors, such as strict eating habits and regular physical activity due to depression.
- Prolonged loneliness that causes depressive symptoms which makes it difficult to create new social relationships and maintain existing relationships. Therefore, depression stems from the experience of loneliness but also increases it, until a negative vicious cycle is created, which may aggravate the problem.
- The sense of loneliness raises not only symptoms of depression, but also anxiety, stress and fear of negative criticism, as well as a significant impact on self-esteem.
Here are some ways to help relieve loneliness:
- Spending more time with the family: Creating joint activities of the grandparents with their grandchildren as part of an enjoyable activity for both sides.
- It is recommended to encourage the elderly person to initiate contact with their friends and people rather than wait for an invitation. It is important to give them the feeling that they are always welcome and that they can initiate social gathering activities.
- Help the elderly person to find new activities in which they can feel self-satisfied like studies, doing sports, attends classes in order to learn new hobbies.
- Volunteering, which has social elements that are quite similar to a place of work, can contribute to a sense of self-worth, help to reduce feelings of belonging and remove physical isolation.
- Helping the elderly person to develop technological skills, teach them to use the smartphone and internet in order to allow them to participate in the different social media network and make them connected to their family.
- Participation in various types of physical activity. For the elderly, the physical activity improve his health, contribute to his cognitive and motor abilities, strengthen muscles and stability, and has positive implications for the old man’s mental health, social functioning and rehabilitation ability.
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