I was recently with a family discussing senior living options. During the course of our conversation, the mother looked at her daughter and said “I’m just too lonely at home”. In fact, I hear that a lot when meeting with families. It’s no surprise, particularly around this time of year as winter approaches and the days are shorter. The statistics are quite shocking. 25% of seniors live alone according to Stats Canada. The figures are even more alarming for women. 37% of women 65+ live alone. This figure jumps to 54% for those 80 years and older!
Some of the known health effects of loneliness and isolation include a decrease in overall health and well being; increased rates of depression, anxiety and suicide; and premature aging. Lonely people tend to consume more alcohol and get less exercise. Scientists have even compared the effects of loneliness as the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
How to Cope with Loneliness
- Recognition. This is perhaps one of the toughest aspects of coping with loneliness. Denial is common. Once loneliness is recognized and accepted, you can take proactive measures to effectively deal with it.
- Increased socialization. What’s your passion? What puts a smile on your face? There are many ways to become more social. Simply dial 211 or look it up online and you will find 282 groups and associations for seniors in greater Montreal. There are many interesting activities such as art, drama, exercises, yoga, photography, music, travel groups, book clubs, religious or spiritual groups, senior centres, etc. Have you considered the Cummings Centre, Contactivity in Westmount, New Hope in NDG or the Cote St. Luc Mens Club? The list goes on and on. Simply take the initiative and participate in something that appeals to you.
- Volunteering. This has the double benefit of reducing loneliness while receiving the gratification of giving back to those that will benefit from your time and effort.
- Having close friends. Do you have a couple of very close friends that you could open up to and share your deepest feelings?
- Consider living in a retirement residence. Why have they become so popular? One of the biggest reasons is their sense of community while still being able to live your life independently and on your terms.
- Family. Now is the time to reach out to family members that may be lonely. Grab a coffee, reminisce, play cards, do an outing or simply be there for your loved one. If you can’t be there in person, take advantage of technology. It’s not uncommon to see grandchildren setting up devices for their grandparents so they can communicate by apps such as Facetime and Skype.
We should all make a concerted effort to reach out to those who may be experiencing loneliness and isolation. On a personal note, my wife and I felt we could make a small difference by organizing a fun and heartwarming initiative which took place last month. It was called “Hug A Senior Day Caravan”. The results surpassed our wildest dreams. We had a total of 107 “Volunteer Huggers” over a two-day period. We traveled by school bus and we visited 11 seniors residences. In all, we gave out a total of 7,837 hugs and high fives. What an experience for the residents as well as the volunteers. There were tears of joy and smiles from ear to ear. Based on the feedback from the huggers and huggees, it looks like we’ll have to make this an annual event!
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For more information, contact Matt Del Vecchio at (514) 622-8074 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org