Loneliness is a common challenge for many seniors, especially during winter when it’s harder to go outside and socialize. With winter in full swing, you may be wondering what you can do to combat feelings of senior social isolation. One of GoGoGrandparent’s missions is to make it possible for seniors to comfortably and safely live at home – and that includes minimizing the harmful effects of senior loneliness.
In this blog, we’ll share 11 easy ways to help beat the winter blues and find even more joy and fulfillment in your life.
Negative effects of senior loneliness
Loneliness is more than just an emotional challenge. ConsumerAffairs reports that the health effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Senior social isolation increases your risk of:
- Dementia by 50%
- Stroke by 32%
- Heart disease by 29%
- Mental health disorders by 26%
- Premature mortality by 26%
These numbers are startling, especially considering that 28% of seniors live alone. Even those who live with family or in senior centers often struggle with feelings of seclusion.
So, what can you do to stave off the negative impacts of loneliness, anxiety, and depression this winter season?
Understanding senior loneliness during the holiday season
The holidays can be particularly challenging for senior loneliness. There are a few reasons why that is:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): About 10 million Americans are diagnosed with SAD, a type of depression that occurs during the winter months. The lack of sunlight, the chillier weather, and shorter days affect mood and can result in hormonal imbalances that lead to depression. Consult with a healthcare professional if you think you may be dealing with seasonal affective disorder.
- Weather limitations: Cold, icy, snowy weather makes it difficult to go outside to socialize. This can lead to senior social isolation, which can worsen feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Holiday memories: The holiday season can bring back memories of loved ones no longer with us, which can be emotionally challenging.
- Exacerbating illnesses: Many people find that the cold, dry weather worsens their health conditions like arthritis or autoimmune disorders. Chronic illnesses not only increase stress, depression, and physical discomfort, but related pain can also force you to stay inside, further worsening senior social isolation.
- Family distance: Many seniors live far from their family members, and the cold weather makes travel harder. This can make it challenging to see each other regularly or spend the holidays together, which can be upsetting for many people.
There are many causes of senior social isolation, but it’s important not to give up hope. There are ways to make your days a little brighter and to connect more often with those who mean the most to you. Keep reading to learn how.
1. Combat senior loneliness by staying connected with loved ones
It’s a busy season for everyone, and even your closest family members might forget to reach out. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about you or want to talk to you; it might just slip their mind. So don’t be afraid to be the primary communicator and make an effort to reach out to loved ones yourself. Schedule a coffee date at your house, plan to watch a movie together, or ring them up to say hello. You’ll be amazed how a short chat can brighten your day – and theirs!
2. Staying active minimizes senior social isolation
Physical activity isn’t just essential for physical health but also mental wellbeing. Exercise releases endorphins – also known as “feel-good hormones” – which can help combat stress, anxiety, and depression. This is a simple, fast, and effective way to brighten your mood instantly.
Join an exercise class, take daily walks, or stretch first thing in the morning for a rush of those feel-good hormones. Also check out GoGoGrandparent’s YouTube channel. We offer free, professional-led courses in strength training and chair yoga that’ll get your heart rate pumping.
Click here to check out the seven best daily exercises to help combat senior loneliness.
3. Embrace technology to stay connected
Smartphones, tablets, and computers are a great way to stave off senior loneliness by connecting with your loved ones. You can keep in touch with family and friends through video calls, text messages, and social media, especially when the weather outside is too frightful to see them in person. If you or your family can’t travel for the holidays, video calls are a great way to host virtual holiday gatherings.
You can even use technology to meet new friends. Join online communities and forums like Facebook groups to share your interests and passions with like-minded people from around the globe.
4. Explore new hobbies and interests
Engaging in hobbies is a great way to combat senior loneliness. Hobbies help promote a sense of accomplishment and purpose, which can boost your overall mood. Some great winter-friendly hobbies include indoor gardening, painting, drawing, crafting, knitting, cooking, baking, writing, reading, puzzle solving, board games, musical instruments, yoga, bird watching, and model building.
Even if yours is a solo hobby, you can join local or online hobby groups to bond with new friends over your shared interests. Catch a ride with GoGoRides to get to your local hobby meetups safely and easily on even the coldest winter days.
5. Join a book club to combat senior loneliness
Reading is a fantastic way to explore new worlds and keep your brain active. Consider joining a local book club or online reading group to engage with new friends and bond over your shared love of reading. Can’t find a book club near you? Start one yourself to help build a community of folks all looking to fight senior loneliness, make friends, and read great books.
6. Explore online learning
The internet offers a wealth of knowledge and learning opportunities. Enroll in an online course or workshop that caters to your interests. You’ll engage your mind, learn something new, and connect with different people. This is a great way to help keep your mind sharp and combat senior social isolation right from the comfort of your home.
7. Celebrate holiday traditions that make you happy
Combating senior loneliness doesn’t always have to mean being social. Participating in happy, nostalgic activities can have the same effect. The holidays are a great time to embrace and revitalize those traditions that have brought you joy over the years. Decorate your home, bake your favorite holiday treats, or watch classic holiday movies to relive those cherished memories.
If you don’t have any traditions you love, consider starting new ones that will make you happy in this current chapter of your life.
8. Volunteering helps lessen senior social isolation
Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to the community and meet new people. You can help at local schools, hospitals, religious institutions, or nonprofit organizations that align with your interests. You can make new friends and help fight feelings of senior loneliness and depression by making a positive and meaningful impact in your community.
9. Attend local events in your area
Many organizations host holiday-related activities that can help minimize senior loneliness, like Christmas lights shows, Nutcracker ballet performances, or cookie decorating competitions. Many of these events may even be virtual, so you can participate from the comfort of your home while still having a lot of fun and meeting new people.
10. Consider a pet to help reduce senior loneliness
If you’re looking for companionship, consider adopting a furry friend. Pets can keep you company and provide unconditional love while minimizing feelings of senior loneliness. Many pet owners say their pets have helped them come out of depression because their pet gives them a “reason” outside of themselves; being responsible for another living being can help lessen senior social isolation and make life feel more meaningful. Moreover, pet ownership is another fantastic way to connect with people in the dog community and bond over your shared love for your fur-babies.
11. Practice gratitude
It’s easy to focus on what we lack rather than what we have. Practicing gratitude can shift your perspective and help you appreciate the small joys in life. Keeping a daily thankfulness journal is a simple practice that can make a huge difference in combating senior loneliness. Learn more about the benefits of gratitude and meditation here.
12. Reach out for support
If the holidays are causing you feelings of senior loneliness, sadness, anxiety, or stress, don’t be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional or a support group. Some counselors and therapists specialize in senior loneliness and mental health, and they can offer personalized, one-on-one support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them; they’re there to support and guide you through these challenging winter months.
13. Utilize GoGoGrandparent to lessen senior social isolation
Use GoGoGrandparent as a resource. GoGoRides gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Visit a friend’s house, attend a fitness class at the gym, meet with your local book club, or schedule a weekly trip to your therapist. Our GoGoGuardians help you arrange safe, reliable transportation to and from any location, and they monitor your ride from start to finish. This means you can get out of the house without the headache of braving the winter roads.
Register for GoGoGrandparent here to try out your first ride and see why so many seniors trust us to help them stay active, engaged, and happy year-round.
How to combat senior loneliness and senior social isolation
Senior social isolation can be disheartening, but by staying connected with loved ones and embracing activities you love, you can overcome senior loneliness and find genuine fulfillment in your everyday life. Remember, you’re never alone in this journey, and there’s always help available when you need it through doctors, therapists, friends, and family. Want to feel better today? Catch a ride with GoGoGrandparent to your best friend’s house right now to brighten your spirits!