It’s the holiday season, and for most of us that means we are busy traveling, attending parties and shopping. But for many seniors, this time of year is isolating and lonely. In fact, according to a 2010 AARP survey, about 25 percent of seniors over the age of 60 reported feeling lonely despite the fact that a healthy social life is a critical component to living well.
The holidays can intensify feelings of loneliness, especially if an older person has experienced a recent loss or moved within the past year. Here are some tips for decreasing feelings of loneliness during the holiday season:
- Reach out. Make an effort to connect with friends and family. Don’t wait for the phone to ring, but rather be proactive in reaching out and connecting. Ask family and friends for what you need, whether that is inviting them for a visit or just having a phone conversation.
- Look for new friends. Seek out friends in your environment. If you live in senior living, there are plenty of folks just outside your door to connect with. Get involved in activities and make it a point to talk to one person. If you live in your own home, get involved in your local senior center and try to make a connection with at least one person each time you go to an event. Gravitate to folks who seem happy. An analysis of the longitudinal Framingham Heart Study showed that if a friend in your social network is happy, your chances of being happy increase by 15 percent.
- Help another person. During the holidays there are plenty of folks in need who you can help. Reach out to a local homeless shelter or church to find out if there are ways to can serve those who are less fortunate. You can write letters to those who serve in the military through organizations like A Million Thanks or Operation Gratitude.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Being thankful for those things that you do have can go a long way towards changing your attitude. According to research, gratitude can help to strengthen social bonds and change distorted thinking that often accompanies loneliness. Each night before you go to sleep write down three things that you are grateful for that happened during the day. This practice helps you to “be on the lookout” for good things.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “To have a friend you have to be one.” Make every effort to be a friend to others this holiday season, and watch your circle of friends grow.
Be Well on Purpose!