How to Combat Loneliness and Social Isolation: Tips for Older Adults

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We’ve all experienced loneliness. But as we age, factors such as the loss of loved ones to moves or illness, and personal health challenges can leave many older adults feeling socially isolated. In fact, one-fourth of adults over age 65 are considered to be socially isolated, according to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). And research shows that social isolation and loneliness come with significant health concerns.

“Isolation and loneliness are risk factors for depression,” says Joshua Raymond, MD, a geriatrician at Monmouth Crossing Assisted Living, part of CentraState Healthcare System in Freehold. “To combat that, seniors and their loved ones have to be on the lookout for more creative ways of staying connected, whether that be in a senior center, an adult daycare program, assisted living communities, through family members, neighbors, or a great social network.”

Here, Dr. Raymond offers practical ways seniors can combat loneliness and maintain a fulfilling and connected lifestyle.

Practice SPEAK-ing daily. Dr. Raymond uses the simple mnemonic, "SPEAK," on a prescription pad for patients as a tool to help avoid mild sadness and prevent depression. These actionable tips can help seniors maintain social connections.

Schedule: Engage in regular activities.

Pleasure: Pursue activities that bring joy and satisfaction.

Exercise: Incorporate low-stress exercise for physical and mental health (aim for 150 minutes/week).

Assertiveness: Find a safe person to share emotions and thoughts with.

Kind Words: Practice self-compassion and positive self-talk.

Post these tips somewhere you’ll see each day as a reminder to find ways to participate, connect, and care for yourself. And remember to act the way you want to feel. "Fake it ‘til you make it," becomes a guiding principle to overcome the inertia that often accompanies loneliness.

Even if it’s not a special occasion, “Get gussied up to go buy milk or go have lunch with a friend,” suggests Dr. Raymond. “By putting time and effort into your appearance, you’ll feel better. Connecting with someone will give you the benefits of social interaction.”


Connect with your community.

Look to local events and senior centers for ways to find activities that interest you and motivate you to socialize outside the home. Local senior centers provide a range of activities—from dance classes and gardening to trips, dinners out with supper clubs, plays and shows, and crafting clubs.


Establish a routine.

A common issue among seniors who no longer work is that their routines have gone out the window. Sleep times, meal times and daily activities tend to be askew when they don’t have anywhere to be. But an unstructured daily schedule could have a negative impact on one’s mental health. Studies show that older adults who get up early and remain active throughout the day with regular routines are happier and tend to perform better on cognitive tests. Choose a few activities to commit to each week and find one reason to leave your home each day.


Carve out time for family and friends.

In today’s busy world, it’s easy for weeks and months to go by without seeing family members. Make it a point to talk to family, friends, and/or caregivers weekly. Try to do it in person, on a video call or via phone call instead of texting. If you suffer from hearing loss, you might be less likely to have conversations and struggle to stay connected to loved ones. Make an extra effort to stay in touch and find ways to connect with others.


Utilize resources for seniors.

Several resources cater specifically to seniors' social needs, such as the New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well and AARP. These organizations offer information, support, and opportunities for community engagement.


Consider Assisted Living

Some seniors may need more help. If you have difficulty getting places on your own or have health conditions that require extra care, you may benefit from an assisted living setting that can provide support services, such as help with medications and healthy meals, while also providing social engagement to keep the mind and body active.

“Social interaction helps to prevent depression and it’s something that Monmouth Crossing offers many opportunities around,” says Dr. Raymond.

Monmouth Crossing Assisted Living offers enriching activities daily – including local trips, exercise programs, crafts, and more.

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