As we age, our friends and relatives may move or pass away, which can make for a very lonely lifestyle. For older adults who are living alone, this can lead to decreased interest in life in general and an overall lack of enjoyment. Organic opportunities to socialize may be more limited, but there are ways that you can continue to expand your social horizons – which can lead to improved health as well as lives that are happier and more fulfilled. Some of the options for social interaction and companionship include pets, local or remote friends, and finding an online community with similar interests.
Depression and Older Adults
Everyone has times where they are sad or feeling a bit blue, but depression is a serious problem that doesn’t just pass or go away on its own. Depression is a common diagnosis for older adults, but it does not have to be an inevitable part of growing older, especially when it is discovered and proactively treated. Your senior years can be happy, fulfilling and enriched with a variety of new friends and experiences.
Some of the symptoms of depression in older adults include:
- Reduced interest in socializing or hobbies
- Problems with memory or attention
- Feelings of deep despair or sadness
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Aches and pains that have no physical cause or remedy
- Disturbances in sleep – oversleeping or difficulty getting to sleep
- Neglecting personal hygiene or skipping meals and medications
Any of these signs together could indicate that what you are feeling is indeed depression. If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor. But you can also take steps to combat these types of symptoms. One of the best is to prioritize social interaction and companionship.
Make New Friends . . . But Keep the Old
Your senior years provide a golden opportunity to reach out to people who have touched your life in a variety of ways. This could be a special teacher or student, coworkers, distant relative or anyone who had an impact on you throughout the years. This is the time of your life when you are likely to have some amount of free time available to renew these friendships, while still being true to local friends and family members.
Set aside an hour or so a few days a week to interact in the form of written letters, emails, phone calls or even a quick text to let someone know you are thinking of them. You never know the smile you are putting on someone’s face when you take the time to reach out!
As you’re reconnecting, don’t underestimate the power of the Internet. There are literally thousands of online communities where you can have conversations or meet up with like-minded individuals. Whether you’re into watersports or knitting, pottery or learning about your ancestry, there are plenty of options to fit your personality. Try searching for your key interests or hobbies and see what pops up. Of course, always be careful when providing personal information to individuals you do not know personally. But there’s nothing stopping you from chatting with someone a world away who shares your unique interests.
Play with Pets
If you are able, having a low-maintenance pet can often be the best companion. These faithful and loving dogs, cats. or birds will provide you with hours of contentment and joy watching their antics and learning their personalities. While you may not want to get a pet that has a great deal of energy, you can still find a great deal of quiet enjoyment from your pet. If you’re not able to have a pet, ask friends or family members to bring their pet on their next visit. Hugging a wriggling little puppy or stroking a sleek feline is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Beating the Holiday Blues
Putting together a killer holiday schedule is a hot topic for many senior adults. This could be a time when children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren converge in a messy, noisy, happy and excited mass into your home. This can cause a great deal of stress and pressure for people of any age, much less someone who may be dealing with reduced mobility.
Perhaps the best way to beat the holiday blues is to reduce your schedule and allow others to help. Even if you have “always” handled something, don’t be afraid to delegate to others. They will likely be delighted to be included and you will find the holiday much more enjoyable and relaxing so you’re able to enjoy your friends and family members instead of working yourself into a tizzy.
Social interaction and companionship are increasingly important for older adults. As the younger generations have schedules that don’t often include their elder relatives, it is up to you to find ways to expand your horizons and stay in touch with others.