Depression, loneliness, isolation – even boredom – plague many older adults who live alone, without friends, family or a support network nearby (although many also struggle with these issues in a community setting).
The death of a spouse, beloved pet, close relatives, and friends often trigger these problems, which are further intensified by the difficult process of grief. As seniors face multiple losses among the people they loved, they are also dealing with the losses wrought by the natural aging process (decreased vision, limited mobility, pain, discomfort, etc.). Chronic illnesses like cancer, arthritis, or Alzheimer’s obscure things too, so that even individuals with the most positive outlook on life may find themselves careworn as they try to manage daily life (paying bills, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, cooking, etc.) in the midst of these challenges, with little to no interaction from people, whether peers, relatives or even total strangers.
An excellent blog post by Howard Gleckman, the author of Caring for our Parents, called isolation among seniors “a huge – and widely ignored – challenge”, as he shared memories of his father’s experience with loneliness in the final years of his life.
A transition to senior living can help – although it’s not the only solution, nor does it mean that once you or a loved one moves in, the depression and loneliness dissipates entirely. However, having that daily interaction with people of all ages (from staff to volunteers to the range of ages among residents), can make a life-changing difference.