Research has found that adults who are persistently lonely during midlife (45-64 years) tend to be more susceptible to memory-related conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease when they get older. Loneliness has become a pervasive health issue in today’s age; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that over a third of adults aged 45 and up feel lonely. This link between loneliness and dementia is particularly worrisome for older adults because they are more likely to experience factors such as living alone and friends and family.
Luckily, it appears that people who recover from loneliness have a good chance of reducing their risk of developing dementia – even more so than people who have never felt lonely in the first place! If you or your loved ones are feeling lonely, here are some tips to connect with others again:
Invite Friends Out For Tea
When you are feeling lonely or depressed, it is easy to fall into a trap of thinking that nobody wants to spend time with you. However, this is usually just our own perception and does not truly reflect reality. Friends, family, and neighbors will often appreciate an invitation out to spend some time together catching up.
Keep in Touch Across Distances
Sometimes it is difficult to schedule a time to meet, especially if you or your friends have a busy work life. Friends and family may stay long distances away from each other as well, which makes it inconvenient to have a physical meeting. Having a conversation with a friend or relative over the phone would be the next best thing. Better yet, scheduling a video call would allow you to see them on screen – a medium of communication that has grown ever more popular over the years.
Get On the Computer
The Internet provides us with many benefits, including the ability to communicate with friends and loved ones online. Social media has made it all the easier to find new friends with similar hobbies. You may choose to connect with people you know on Facebook or Instagram so that they can view and react when you share a post or photo. If you are unfamiliar with the Internet, consider attending a digital literacy class or having a loved one teach you the ropes.
Engage in Local Community Activities
Whilst the variety of these activities would depend on where you live, it is likely that you will be able to find local community events around. If you have a hobby, you may want to try pursuing it in the company of others; join a book club, walking group, quiz night or faith group. Alternatively, you can help out at a local shelter or non-profit organization, where you will likely befriend the many other volunteers there.
Adopt a Pet
If you are an animal lover, you may consider adopting a furry friend. Studies have shown that owning a pet can lower anxiety, improve memory and boost mental health. This is especially so for retired individuals as a beloved pet can re-ignite their sense of purpose. Caring for a pet brings companionship, and can be fun and fulfilling for older adults.