Loneliness is sadly more common among our elderly members of society. As we all grow older we say goodbye to loved ones and the world suddenly can become a more lonesome place, it can even become a cause of dementia. People living with dementia can suddenly feel very lonely as they lose their social circles and people in their lives becomes distant. It’s a catch 22.
With the Coronavirus pandemic this year, more and more elderly people have been living with loneliness.
If you have an elderly neighbour or are lucky enough to still have elderly relatives, then there are a few things you can do to help make them feel less lonely.
Let’s look at our top 10 list of things you can do to relieve the elderly from feeling lonely. (Some of these will not be actionable until after the Coronavirus self-isolation for the vulnerable has lifted).
1. Talk about their life story
Whether it’s on the phone or if you are able to visit your family members again, take this opportunity while they are still with us to learn of their life story.
You can do a short interview or ask them questions about your family history. Try it with someone you know.
Many elderly people hardly ever get to talk about themselves and in particular their past.
I recently called my grandmother who is in isolation during the Coronavirus crisis and I thought to just ask about our family history. I had never met my great grandparents on my father’s side of the family so was interested to know more about them.
We talked for several hours a week about her past and her family. She perked up when she talked about her childhood. Her memories of her grandmother, mother, father and siblings. She was in her element sharing with me our family stories.
In return, I got to learn more about my grandmother and listen to wonderful stories that I could laugh and bond with her over. Hearing the joy in my grandmother’s voice as she spoke about her past made me wish I had engaged in these conversations years ago. Both of us left the conversation over the phone elated!
2. Offer practical help
Offering your help is one of the simplest ways to make a big difference to an elderly person’s life. They may not be able to leave the house at the moment, so taking the time on a routine basis to help out will give them security and give them something to look forward to when you visit.
Whether this is picking up their medical prescription, bringing their shopping or even posting letters. These small acts of love will make a huge difference to their wellbeing.
Plus, knowing on a certain day they’ll get to see you will lift their spirits and give them something to look forward to.
3. Write a letter
Letters would mean more to an elderly person than they would to the youth of today. Back in their youth, they would have sent letters frequently, so sending a letter may bring back nostalgia as well as being a welcome piece of post through the door.
4. Drop them off a meal
It can be hard for the elderly to cook for themselves, so as they get older their meals become simpler and easier to cook- especially if they are all alone at home.
If you’re making a family dish, save a portion and drop it to your elderly neighbour/ relative. If you are able to stay and eat with them to keep them company.
5. Find a fun activity they enjoy
Be engaging in fun hobbies and activities they enjoy; they can easily enjoy their time while keeping their mind stimulated. Find out their interests and seek to join them. Whether it’s playing cards, Scrabble, scrapbooking or even knitting! It will be a great way for you to socially interact with them too, and even an opportunity for you to learn a new skill!
6. Get children involved
Children are wonderful at making people smile. Whether it’s their zest for life, simple outlook and ease for being happy. Encourage your children to partake in activities that can lift an elderly person’s spirits. Whether that’s drawing pictures, writing in cards or even sending photographs of them.
7. Encourage other family members to call or visit
If you’ve found enjoyment in connecting with your elderly relatives it’s likely other members of your family will too. Try to encourage your family to reach out and connect with your elderly relatives too. This will help strengthen family bonds and heritage.
8. Teach them how to use technology
Discovering new ways to stay in touch may not be suitable for everyone.
For example, one grandmother of mine isn’t interested in using a smartphone, so we communicate by telephone. On the other hand, my other grandmother LOVES to keep in touch over WhatsApp. We are all in one family group chat and she loves to hear from us, see photos of the children and video call with my grandfather. It’s worked extremely well for them during the coronavirus pandemic and life seems to be relatively normal for them with fewer visits.
They also love their Netflix subscription so have watched more shows than I.
Technology can be used in wonderful ways to keep in touch, so if possible try and encourage its’ use to combat loneliness. Be patient if you need to teach them how to use it.
But don’t force it if they aren’t comfortable with it.
9. Head out for the day / visit a park or go to a café
If you’re able (most likely when we get the all-clear from the Coronavirus pandemic) a nice stroll and a breath of fresh air will do wonders for the soul.
10. Send a goodie hamper
Sometimes all it takes is to know we are being thought of and loved for. So if you don’t have the time to spend, send a gift or even better a goodie hamper with all their favourite things.
While they may be stuck at home, they may not have access to luxuries to help them relax and enjoy their time. Send lovely soaps, treats, teas- anything that you know they will enjoy.
Comfort through lonely times can help improve their mental health and achieve those feel-good moments.