Loneliness in Older Australians: How to Help

“I just feel so alone”

In a world where we are so incredibly connected, where plans can be made, rescheduled and cancelled in two minutes without ever uttering a word, where it’s never been easier to talk to loved ones across the globe or send an ‘e-card’ straight to the inbox of a friend there is a staggering amount of social isolation and loneliness in elderly Australians.

Loneliness can occur at many stages in life, after the passing of a partner or as our children and friends branch out further in to their own lives, it can happen after retirement from a lifetime career or it may be seasonal as social isolation increases with the cold weather. Whatever the reason, it is heartbreakingly easy to feel alone and vulnerable. Both increase your chance of depression and dramatically affect physical and mental well-being, research has shown loneliness to increase the likelihood of mortality by 26%*

So what do you do if you are worried about a friend or a loved one?

Pinpointing loneliness, even in those we know best, can be harder than you think. Elderly Australians often have such a strong sense of pride that asking for attention or help can feel like a devastating loss of sense of self, that is why reaching out, in a variety of ways, can make all of the difference.

Listen, Observe, Listen

Listening, a beautifully simple part of human interaction and yet it holds the key to so many revelations and understandings. Simple questions can open up a loved one to talk about things that are often brushed under the carpet or held close to the chest. However, questions do not need to be serious to combat loneliness, a cuppa and a chat can go wonders in making someone feel truly appreciated and valued. Listen to what they say and what they don’t, listen to the hard and the easy, the serious and the funny, the mundane and the adventures, just listen. Observe their unspoken ques and then listen some more.

Use your knowledge to DO!

You may know so much about this person, there may be things you’ve yet to learn and you may be surprised at something they reveal when you listen. Take this new found knowledge of their hobbies, interest and dreams and DO something. Plan a family dinner for the person that misses the busy house, organise to help the green fingered in the garden, offer to help with the shopping or listen to that old band they’ve always loved. Elderly Australians fear being burdens on those they care about, sharing a fun activity together helps the bonding in relationships.

Socialisation

Of course we all know that socialisation is a pretty strong combatant of social isolation but it can be much harder to have meaningful interactions now than ever before, especially for those most vulnerable. Joining a specific group or community centre will allow your loved one the opportunity to connect with people of similar ages and interests as well as giving their life the focus that they often miss. Adelaide Councils have a large directory of community centres and initiatives in the area: http://www.adelaidecitycouncil.com/your-community/community-development/seniors/

BeyondBlue also have a fantastic online resource that helps you have the conversation with the older people in your life: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/older-people/have-the-conversation-with-older-people, they have a hotline if you or someone you know are struggling and want to talk to someone that cares: 1300 22 4636.

Ananda Aged Care value all older Australians, we know your worth and find inspiration in your wisdom. As we navigate the aged care industry and seek to provide Compassion, Comfort and Care across our facilities we fight for the rights of elder Australians and shine a light on the topics that matter. If you wish to chat with someone in our organisation please ring (08) 8262 5020 and LET’S TALK ABOUT AGED CARE.

 

*http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/26/social-isolation-not-just-feeling-lonely-may-shorten-lives