Most older people feel lonely

Loneliness in old age

Nowadays there is hardly a family whose generations live together under one roof and so there are more and more elderly people who suffer from loneliness.

Loneliness in old age - a problem that is also becoming more and more important in Germany. Women in particular are affected, as a survey by the Federal Statistical Office from 2009 shows.

Almost half of women over the age of 65 live alone. From the age of 85, there are even three out of four women, but only one in three men.

By 2030, the number of individual households is to increase to 80 percent, of which at least 40 percent will be over 60 years old.

Causes of loneliness

The causes of loneliness are many. Loneliness in old age arises above all when the familiar living environment changes quickly. Illness, death, or separation can trigger such fundamental changes.

For older people, their own family is often a central point of reference. Your own children, grandchildren and your spouse fill your social life. But if the children move further away or if they have too much to do with their own life, a large part of the social interaction is lost. If the spouse then dies or a separation occurs, the elderly are threatened with isolation.

But illness or restricted mobility, for example as a result of an accident, can also lead to loneliness. Older people often isolate themselves in the event of illness; if the illness is permanent, it can have fatal consequences. Anyone who has limited mobility due to illness or an accident usually rarely leaves the house and thus withdraws from social participation.

Risks of loneliness

Various studies show how risky loneliness is. An American study recently showed that loneliness can have the same negative impact on health as risk factors such as smoking and obesity.

But above all the risk of developing depression is massively increased by loneliness. Once an elderly person is caught in this cycle, it is often difficult for them to escape. In addition, existing symptoms and problems are exacerbated by depression. The affected senior withdraws even further, isolates himself and often finds himself in a dangerous downward spiral. It is all the more important to consciously counter the feeling of loneliness and to do something about it.

Ways out of loneliness

Many older people want to get out of their loneliness - just how? Going back to a previous circle of friends, former hobbies or participating in social activities can be a solution. Ultimately, the quickest way out of loneliness is to ask about your own wishes and interests, which is the basis for an appealing leisure activity. Because those who enjoy what they do automatically feel less lonely.

Tips against loneliness

  • Activate family and friends - Perhaps the simplest tip against loneliness is to hang out with family and friends. The family dinner together on Sunday, the weekly coffee meeting with best friends, the football evening with friends - just a few examples of joint activities that fill the week and counteract loneliness. A senior tablet, for example, is ideal for reaching your own children and grandchildren via social media.

  • Attend a senior citizen club - If the circle of friends is limited and there is no family within reach, senior citizens' get-togethers can be a good way of finding social connections. Such meetings take place in almost every place. Churches, retirement homes and other charitable institutions are usually the right place to go. Seniors can exchange ideas with other people of their own age and make friendships during games afternoons together, a coffee chat or excursions.

  • Get a pet - It is no longer a secret that pets have a positive influence on people's wellbeing. Why shouldn't older people also benefit from it? A pet keeps company and gives comfort in lonely hours. In addition, it gives its mistress or master the feeling of being needed. If you don't want to buy your own pet, you can alternatively sponsor an animal in the animal shelter.

  • Exercise an honorary position - If you want to fill your time with something meaningful, volunteering may be an option. Whether as a loan grandma or loan grandpa, homework help, city guide, helper in the soup kitchen or in non-profit associations. With the multitude of possibilities, there is a suitable task for everyone. Many find in their voluntary work a task for life that fulfills and makes you happy.

  • Pick up a hobby - Nowhere is it quicker and easier to find a connection than in a club. Music club, carnival club or sports club - combine common interests. In this way, seniors can not only do something for their social life, but at the same time also pursue a joyful activity. Those who want to be active can do something for their health in a sports club, a fitness studio or in special fitness courses for seniors at the adult education center. Having your own garden can also be a fulfilling leisure activity.

  • Start a senior degree - You're never too old to learn something new. Anyone who has always wanted to study or continue their education in a certain area has the chance to do so in old age. Regardless of whether you are studying as a guest student or as a senior student - the possibilities are diverse and there is something for everyone.

  • Travel - See something of the world with senior travel! This is the dream of many older people. If you had too many commitments in your professional life or had family ties, you have the opportunity to travel to your heart's content in retirement. If you are alone and cannot find a travel partner, you can, for example, join group tours specially designed for seniors.

  • Change the living situation - A change in the living situation can also be an effective method to counteract loneliness in old age. Which type of living is the most suitable in each case depends on various factors. The most important thing is how fit the senior is physically and mentally, how high his level of independence is and how much space he needs for himself. Possible forms of living for senior citizens are, for example, assisted living, a senior citizens' flat share or a nursing home.

  • Use senior citizen service:Charitable associations, DRK etc. offer visiting services by volunteers for seniors. These conduct conversations or activities with those affected at home.

Nobody has to be alone, this also applies to the elderly. There are many opportunities for those looking for social participation. Even if the first step towards change is difficult, it is definitely worth it.

Additional information

Checked by care expert Florian Seybecke

  • Years of experience in various settings in professional care (nursing home, intensive care, acute hospital, 1: 1 care)
  • Further and advanced training in nursing, including a Bachelor of Science nursing degree, advanced training as a nursing expert for people in a vegetative state and MCS, DGCC, certified case manager and responsible nurse to manage a nursing facility.
  • Germany-wide training courses in NAT. Expert standards, emergency intervention and general disease science in nursing.

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Nursing expert for living in old age

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