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The Aging Body in Healthy Living
September 5, 2017
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Loneliness in Elderly

Loneliness among the elderly is common, both in outpatient and inpatient settings. It is associated with depression, poor health status, decreased mobility, and cognitive decline. Health status can improve if loneliness is diminished through companionship, satisfying family relations, and activities with a sense of
purpose.

Elderly individuals may be able to describe their feeling of loneliness and suggest remedies for it. The following suggestions were inspired by interviews with 19 older people who each experienced some degree of loneliness. Family contacts can gain meaning when the older person performs tasks for family members, especially meal preparation. With more debilitated elderly relatives, transforming a nursing home visit into shared tea time, cocktail time, or a dinner out may also help transform the participants’ relationships.

Offering a wide range of activities for a spectrum of abilities and tastes will increase the opportunities for an elderly individual to find like-minded people and an enjoyable project. Reading is a solitary, but active, pastime that allows the individual to stay in contact with the larger world, and it can diminish loneliness through a sense of connection. Gardening can provide a function and purpose, and there can be long-term satisfaction in watching the planned and created plot flourish. The full or shared responsibility of taking care of a pet can also result in satisfaction and companionship.

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