Aging is a natural part of the cycle of life. As much as we would all love to find the “fountain of youth”, getting older is inevitable. During our youth we often think that we will be vibrant no matter how old we get. Then fast forward the years and the changes start to come: physical changes, retirement, deaths of loved ones, lack of mobility, medical issues, and increased isolation. None of these factors contribute to a positive state of mind in anyone, much less among the elderly. In many cases, the elderly person will often feel low in self-esteem due to a reduced sense of purpose. They have few reasons to get up every day with enthusiasm because they no longer work and their social lives have decreased. This lack of purpose causes many to withdraw from social contacts causing more loneliness, which leads to depression. This will also lead to a decrease of an elderly person’s quality of life. In order to avoid a diminished quality of life in their later years, several aspects should be made a priority. General health should be regarded as most important. This includes vitality and mental health as well. The latter years of everyone’s life should be filled with love and comfort. We spend our early years navigating through struggles, working hard, and learning valuable life lessons along the way. The elderly deserve to have their days filled with purpose and love.
If you have an elderly friend, family member, or neighbor and you notice a reluctance in behavior towards family, friends, or social gatherings, try to become more active in their everyday life. Loneliness among senior citizens is a silent epidemic because it is often swept under the rug. Sometimes it’s taken as a part of the aging process, but it is not. An increase of loneliness can make present medical issues worsen. If an elderly person is left unattended for long periods of time, there will most likely be an increased chance of injuries, both accidental or self-inflicted. There are several things that you can do for an elderly loved one:
- Make regular visits. Whether they are daily visits, weekends, or bi-weekly, your attention and presence can make a huge difference in their life. Your presence shows you care.
- Plan a brunch, lunch, or dinner outing. This will give the elderly person a sense of social belonging. In addition, going to a new place to eat will add excitement to their life.
- Introduce them to new people, children and adults alike. Bringing new people around will feed their curiosity and will influence them to have more conversations and interactions.
- Encourage them to enjoy the outdoors. Regular physical activity is crucial for good mental and physical health. A walk around the neighborhood, local park, or mall may elevate their mood. Daylight and fresh air can do wonders for the old and young alike.
- Invite them on your next family trip. The last thing your elderly loved one wants to be is a burden. By you bringing them on a family trip, they will feel wanted, loved, and a feeling of security. They will feel a sense of belonging.
- Sign them up for an activity, sports, or introduce them to new hobbies. Senior centers often have classes such as tennis, swimming, painting, bingo, etc. Fun activities will keep their spirits lifted and give them a way to meet new people and friends.
- Reading and writing can be the a positive therapy. You can read and write together and they can continue to read and write when they are alone. Everyone has a story and a legacy. Let your elderly loved one share theirs. They can share their wisdom, strengths, accomplishments, weaknesses, mistakes, likes, and dislikes. And along the way, you can pass down their story to your family.
- Last, but not least: love. Show love and respect. Tell them you care about them, but most importantly show them.
We all have busy lives and have priorities we are juggling, but being empathetic to another human being’s well-being and feelings should also be on the top of our list. The time will come when we ourselves will grow old. Like the old cliché: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” That never gets old.