Living alone comes with many pros and cons. Being completely independent allows you to do whatever you want, whenever you want. However, being the only one at home may also lead to feelings of loneliness.
Ironically, you are not alone. Over 14 million seniors in the U.S. alone experience loneliness, according to the Administration on Aging. This state of mind can be caused by many factors: a change in health, adjusting to a new place, living far apart from family, and going through treatment.
Loneliness can also affect health. The National Institute on Aging shares that emotional pain can activate the same stressors in the body as physical pain. When this state is prolonged, this may lead to chronic inflammation and reduced immunity. People who feel sad tend to move, sleep, and eat around less. This may contribute to a decline in our ability to perform everyday tasks, as well as reduce our sense of community.
Feeling lonely is valid. Loneliness can be experienced by anyone at any age. There are moments when loneliness can be overwhelming, and it could be difficult to speak about it. However, it is always best to talk about it to a person you trust, instead of keeping it in. If you are living in a retirement community, know that you can live independently and not feel distanced from the life and people you love.
How can you overcome loneliness while living alone? Here are some of the ways:
Mobile phones today make it easier than ever for you to get in touch with your friends and family. A simple chat or a regular FaceTime with them will allow you to stay connected with the people you care about. Talk to your family about regular calls so that they can always make time for you. You can also celebrate special days with them by keeping your presence through video calls.
Finding it difficult to use the screen? Maximize your phone’s accessibility by using its speech recognition feature or the sponge-tip stylus pen to use the device. If you feel you are better off using a keyboard, there are special devices that can be attached to your device. Ask your retirement community for training sessions for senior adults. It can also be a great opportunity to meet new people!
One of the drawbacks of loneliness is the ebbing of our inner sense of connection and community. This can affect our brain health. What is the best way to undo that? Reach out to someone who can help. A few minutes chat with your community’s team can help alleviate feelings of loneliness–more so, if you begin to engage in group activities.
Socialization is the best way to avoid loneliness in senior adults. Take part in programs that you are enthusiastic about and find people who have the same interests as you.
A change in the atmosphere can also help. Travel around the community or visit local events that are attuned to your passion. If there are things you’ve always wanted to discover and explore, there’s always a chance to learn! Refresh your mind and put your amazing skills to use by finding new hobbies.
Leaning into the causes you care about is one thing that gives you direction and purpose. Volunteering is great, not only for the cause itself but for your mind and body, too! Get a sense of fulfillment, as well as connect with people who share the same goal.
You can become a part of the cause closest to your heart and give back to the community. This keeps your mind busy and your body active, as well as helping you improve your social and relationship skills.
Divert those feelings of loneliness into hours where you feel most productive. Have a hobby? Focus on improving that skill. Invest in the pastimes that you once loved and nurture your creativity. You can try watercolor painting, music, writing, chess, swimming, or even find something new! Retirement communities offer seasonal programs that can spark a new light in you. At best, you can showcase your work to your family and friends! They will surely feel proud of your achievements.
A smile, a nod, or a small “hi!” is enough to boost one’s spirit. This is something you can do for the people around you, too. Your neighbors will be more than happy to stop by for a quick chat. Whether it’s about the weather, a dog, an interesting feature in their yard, or a book they are reading, you can always find ways to connect and make friends.
Some community and congregational outreach programs help seniors connect with trusted neighbors. Having conversations with the people living near you can enhance your mood—even if it’s just small talk, it can be a great way to keep you busy and avoid loneliness.
There’s a reason why people with pets are happier than most. Having pets at home reminds you that you are not alone and that a companion is always looking out for you. Dogs are loyal, friendly, and filled with happy bursts of energy. Cats go the opposite route, at times, but according to the National Institutes of Health, bonding with cats can help trigger a chemical chain reaction in the brain. As a result, having a cat increases the production of the feel-good hormone, serotonin, while decreasing cortisol levels, also known as the fight-or-flight hormone.
Having a pet helps you experience a drop in your heart rate, have balanced blood pressure, and lowers your cholesterol levels.
Finally, it is important to pat yourself for a job well done, even if they were small steps toward independence. Log your achievements in a journal, or better, post them on social media to get interactions from your family and friends. Give yourself a treat by dining in your favorite restaurant, or heading to the museum you want to go to. Most importantly, having a community and team for socialization will allow you to combat loneliness.
At Ingleside’s retirement communities, you can connect with a variety of people and engage in various programs. You’ll have people by your side who can share wonderful stories of their journeys in life. At Ingleside, you can find a wide range of options that can help you stay engaged. Give us a call at 202-846-2651, and we’ll be more than happy to assist you.