Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and/or social isolation. They often are suffering from chronic illness, must live alone, are dealing with the loss of family or friends, or are impaired by hearing loss.
What is loneliness?
Loneliness can affect us all and can be undetected when it is misunderstood. Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. Even if the individual is surrounded by family and friends, they may be suffering from a silent loneliness inside themselves. On the other hand, it is also possible for a socially isolated person to feel perfectly content. A study by Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University in 2018 found that one in four Australian adults experience feelings of loneliness, and data in 2018 from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that those over 75 more likely to be lonely than any other age group. Due to several reasons, one contributing factor to feeling lonely can be living in a residential aged care facility.
What effect can loneliness and social isolation have?
Not only does loneliness have a harmful effect on mental health, but it is also associated with poor physical health as well. It may even increase the risk of premature death to the same extent as obesity and smoking. Feeling supported and connected is vital to maintaining health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Loneliness varies in severity and is not always a substantial issue. Sometimes the feelings may pass on their own. However, persistent, and long-lasting feelings of loneliness can be a serious issue. Loneliness can bring an increased risk of:
- Heart disease and high blood pressure,
- Depression or anxiety leading to suicide,
- Chronic pain and frailty leading to falls,
- Reduced independence and social participation,
- Negative feelings such as anger, sadness, depression and worthlessness,
- Overall poorer quality of life.
Aged Care Living as a contributor
Living in a residential aged care facility also has contributing factors that may increase a feeling of loneliness and social isolation such as;
- Close residents dismissing feelings and experiences of loneliness,
- Difficulty maintaining identity,
- The overwhelming feeling of the need to conform to rules or expectations related to age or the unwanted need to participate in activities and follow the social expectations of the facility,
- Trying to avoid the feeling of being viewed as a burden,
- Lack of autonomy,
- Lack of regular contact with family and friends.
Daily life is also routinised and this can create an endless loop of negative emotions.
How can I reduce the feeling of loneliness?
What Activities are Available?
Joining a group is a great way to not feel lonely. Choose one of your interests and find a group of likeminded people to do it together!
Sing Australia has 150 groups around Australia. Groups meet regularly to sing and hold other social activities. Anyone can join and there are no auditions. For more information visit www.singaustralia.com.au/home.
The Garden Clubs of Australia Inc
670 clubs throughout Australia fall under the umbrella of The Garden Clubs of Australia. To find gardening clubs in your area or for more information visit www.gardenclubs.org.au.
Bowls clubs are all around Australia, and bowls is a great activity to help get you physically moving and socially interacting again. Check for your local at www.bowlsaustralia.com.au.
Volunteering is not only a good way to interact with others, but it also gives the added benefit of providing necessary assistance to those in need and benefiting the volunteer with a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Volunteering Australia is the national peak body for volunteering and can be contacted by calling (02) 6251 4060 or visiting www.volunteeringaustralia.org.
Social Support Group
ConnectAbility run a Friendship club. Companionship is a great way to relax and socialise. The Friday Friendship Club provides social support, morning tea, lunch, activities, entertainers, guest speakers, bingo and the opportunity to meet new people. The Friendship Club is held at the Jesmond Neighbourhood Centre.
Connect with others through ConnectAbility Australia
You can visit ConnectAbility at our new purpose-built premises which located at 26 Warabrook Boulevard, Warabrook NSW 2304. We are also at 4 Karalta Lane, Erina NSW 2250 if you are located on the Central Coast. You can email or call us at Warabrook or Erina. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please make a referral online and we will be in touch as soon as possible.
If you’re concerned about an older person experiencing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or just not coping, then it is important to take the first step. Begin a conversation; your support and concern may make all the difference. This information is not intended to replace the advice from trained medical professionals. Always consult your physician for personalised medical advice or call 000 in an emergency.