Did you know that two fifths of all older people say their TV is their main company? And that 59% of those aged 85 and over and 38% of those between 75 and 84 live alone? These are dire statistics. Especially when you consider that loneliness has been linked to cognitive decline, Alzheimer's, anxiety and depression, heart disease, a weakened immune system and other health conditions. So it’s fantastic you’ve decided to take action.
There are many ways of helping lonely elderly people, so, no matter what your lifestyle, there's always something you can do. From joining a befriending service for the elderly to simply having a chat with them, here are some tips for how to help lonely elderly people.
Smile at them
Imagine you’re really lonely; you feel like you have no one. How would you feel receiving pitying looks left, right, and centre? Probably not great. It’s definitely not going to make you feel any better. In fact, it’d probably make you feel worse. It’s the same for lonely elderly people. So smile at them! It’s proven to be contagious and release feel-good chemicals in the brain while helping to reduce stress. It’ll also have the same effect on you, so it’s a win-win.
Talk to them
Chat to them as you pass them on the street, and if you hit it off and are comfortable with it, exchange phone numbers with them. That way you can check in, plan visits, and more. But don’t let this replace face-to-face interaction as it's still super important.
And when chatting to elderly people, bear in mind they might have memory issues, hearing and eyesight problems, or they might just be out of practice when it comes to socialising. Be patient and speak clearly but don't shout.
Help them run errands and get out and about
Let them know how you’re happy to help out. That might be taking them shopping or doing it for them, taking them to doctor's appointments, or accompanying them on other errands. If you’re both comfortable with it, you could also offer to go with them to the park so they can get some fresh air and see some new faces, you could help them get involved with fun activities and clubs such as aerobics, a book club, arts and crafts classes and groups, or a chess club.
Help them with their day-to-day
Cooking can be tricky or tiring for an older person who may be disabled or suffering from an impairment such as arthritis. But a healthy diet is essential to good psychical and mental health. It’s a great idea to help them cook or make an extra portion when you’re cooking for yourself and bring it over to them.
Other seemingly simple household tasks can be difficult or dangerous for the elderly too. So offer to help with the little household chores like unloading the dishwasher, changing lightbulbs, hanging laundry, putting the bins out, hoovering, and mopping. If you're wondering how this helps with loneliness, it's simple: you're with them. Helping them out is a great excuse to hang out, chat, have a laugh, and offering a hand shows you care about them. Often when people feel lonely, they feel like no one cares.
Help them with tech
Some elderly people do not care for tech at all. But some are more curious and eager to learn than you may think - they just don’t know where to start. If they have a tablet or smartphone, you can help them by making the layout simpler and by increasing the font size if needed. Then you could teach them simple functions like using Facetime or Skype, searching for a show on Netflix, posting to Facebook, and navigating a dating website. That way, they can stay social when you aren’t around.
Offer to help them foster a pet
Now, obviously this isn’t something anyone should rush into. They need to be physically, mentally, and financially capable of looking after an animal and have the time and desire to do so. If it seems like the right choice, fostering is great because you only look after the pet for a few weeks or months. And it doesn't have to be a big Rottweiler or German shepherd; it could be a cat or a budgie.
Their new pet shouldn’t replace humans, though. Elderly people still need to get out and about and talk to others, but a pet can make them feel less alone, especially if they live by themselves. Pets also have brilliant effects on our health, such as reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and stress, and easing symptoms of depression.
Join a befriending service for the elderly
Maybe you want to help, but there’s no one in your area that needs it. Or maybe you just found out you really enjoy it! Perhaps you should consider joining a befriending service for the elderly. With the service, you might have phone conversations with elderly people, help them get more exercise, drive them around, or visit them at home to chat and play some games. To volunteer, check out Age Concern, Age UK, The Silver Line, and Independent Age’s websites.
Helping lonely elderly people is a lovely idea. Many older people get lonely, and it’s incredibly easy to help them out. You don’t have to do all of these tips, just do what you can. We hope our tips gave you an idea of how to help lonely elderly people you know. Together, we can help alleviate loneliness in one of the more vulnerable groups in our society.
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