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How Older Adults Can Overcome Loneliness

According to a 2019 Time magazine article, one out of every three seniors is lonely. While that might not seem like a big deal, loneliness is actually fast becoming one of the biggest health hazards of our time. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that social isolation and loneliness increase the risk of health complications, including dementia, heart disease, depression and anxiety, for older adults.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly exacerbated social isolation and the feeling of loneliness for many people, especially seniors. Since social distancing is one of the best solutions to the public health crisis, there isn’t much we can do to be physically near one another and stay safe from harm; however, there are ways to encourage social interactions while following CDC guidelines during the pandemic.

Take Up a New Hobby

Whether you’re interested in painting, knitting, fly fishing, scrapbooking, learning a language, or joining a book club, anything goes! With so many options, you’re sure to find something of interest. Not only will you exercise your brain by learning and doing an activity, but you’ll also have the opportunity to connect with others who share your interest. With in-person connection off the table, there are lots of digital spaces for people to convene around a shared hobby—and remote connection definitely counts in the fight against loneliness.

Connect in Digital Spaces

Virtual interactions are a great way to stay connected with others across distances or in spite of circumstances that may prevent you from going out to socialize. Some older adults can feel daunted by new technology, but there are quite a few user-friendly applications available with the simple touch of a button on your smartphone or computer.

Many people use social media sites, like Facebook, to connect with loved ones, but other options exist, too:

  • HearMe is an app designed for emotional health and well-being; it allows you to have text conversations with trained volunteers about whatever is on your mind.
  • Happy was created to ensure that every person feels heard, understood and encouraged. This app allows you to engage in telephone conversations with compassionate people who are ready and willing to lend an ear.
  • There are even options for virtual counseling now, too—apps like Talkspace connect you with a licensed therapist and are even covered under some insurance plans.

Adopt a Pet

Having a furry friend around the house is a great way to help combat social isolation and loneliness. While they may not be able to have a conversation with you, pets are great at keeping their humans company. If you plan to go this route, do your research: You’ll want to choose a pet that matches your lifestyle, energy level and mobility. Keep in mind the animal’s diet, activity needs and temperament before committing to make sure the endeavor will be a help, not a hindrance.

Don’t let loneliness get the best of you! If you’re feeling socially isolated or in need of social activity, plenty of options exist to help facilitate the kind of connection that works for you. Using this list as a starting point, you can be striking up conversations, sharing interests and making friends in no time.

Hilary Young Author

Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.

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