How to alleviate loneliness in our elders

Spain has passed the threshold of two million elderly people living alone. Aging and Loneliness is feminized, there are 850,000 people over 80 years old living alone, most of them are women: 662,000.

According to recent studies, 39% of people over 65 years of age suffer from emotional loneliness, most of them women. This data increases the lower the educational level.

Among the causes of this emotional loneliness we can point out:

  • Physical isolation due to worsening health condition.
  • Poor social and/or family relationships.
  • Increase in a more individualized lifestyle.
  • Vital crisis, in which people in the environment are disappearing for different reasons.

All this has an effect on health at two levels:

  • At the psychological level: resulting in sadness, depression and anxiety, which can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as risk of addictions (smoking, alcoholism...), suicide attempts or eating disorders, and increased risk of domestic accidents.
  • At the physiological level: the person may suffer from coronary heart disease, decreased immune system and/or risk of falls.

How to prevent this situation?

Through what is called Active Aging.

  • Participation in group physical activities. Encourages communication and relationships between people with a common interest, preventing isolation. These activities can be gymnastics, tai chi, dance, etc.
  • Participation in volunteering. Feeling useful is very important for people who have concerns, especially in retirement. Many people feel that they have to continue contributing to society, and this activity allows them to enjoy that need. There are associations especially focused on volunteering for the elderly. On the other hand, the elderly can also enjoy the company of a volunteer, who can accompany them both at home and on walks, sharing common hobbies, and the needs that can be managed from volunteering.
  • Attendance at senior centers where activities are organized. In many senior centers, in addition to being a meeting point for their users, activities and even trips are organized, encouraging socialization among people living in the same area. In this way, social isolation is prevented.
  • Cultural activities. They can be visits to museums, theater workshops, musical shows. There are cultural centers, city councils and other organizations that have this initiative, fostering relationships among the people who attend them.

But what about those people who, for whatever reason, are not mobile enough to do all this?

  • Intergenerational exchange programs. These programs consist of the possibility of a young person going to live with an older person, or spending time with them, all through a contract of conditions for both parties, each acquiring a series of commitments. This experience is very enriching since both parties obtain very positive benefits.
  • Telecare services. This service consists of a device installed in the home, which users can press in case of need or simply to chat. It also has follow-up calls. It allows the elderly to feel accompanied and cared for at all times, while maintaining the autonomy and privacy of their own home.
  • Home help services. This is a service in which a home help assistant intervenes, performing a series of activities with the person who hires it, such as cleaning, grooming, accompaniment, or shopping, all favoring the permanence of the person in his or her environment. It is aimed at people with certain limitations to perform them on their own.

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