There are many reasons that explain why Baby Boomers experience loneliness. WebMD reports that 27% of Americans 60 and older are living alone either by choice or circumstances. Comparatively, the U.S. is distinguished as having the second highest number of seniors living alone worldwide.
AARP cites a National Poll on Healthy Aging survey finding that 33% of seniors claim that they don’t have regular companionship. Additionally, another 25% admit to feeling isolated based on this survey.
The Impact of Loneliness on Baby Boomer Health
Granted, loneliness is an emotional state that most people can relate to as a fleeting period of time that passes without much consequence beyond some temporary discomfort. While this type of occasional loneliness is part of the human condition, many seniors experience ongoing feelings of loneliness that impact their mental and physical health in negative ways.
NIA cites studies that link loneliness to a higher risk of heart disease, cognitive impairment and depression. Additional findings by NIA report that seniors who are socially isolated spend more time in the hospital and also die earlier.
Considering that lonely seniors are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, anxiety, obesity, dementia, heart disease, a weakened immune system, cognitive decline and early death, it makes sense for boomers and their relatives to address loneliness within their circle of friends and family members. Fortunately, there are ways to decrease suffering and improve the lives of lonely seniors.
Tips for Fighting Loneliness
There are some obvious and not so obvious strategies boomers can employ to address loneliness and improve their quality of life. Below are some proven steps to consider.
1. Make a consistent effort to meet new people and nourish established friendships.
Seniors often complain about how difficult it is to meet new people as an older person. This can be true, but only if boomers believe it and fail to take action to meet new friends.
Considering that seniors often enjoy the luxury of more free time than their younger counterparts, the challenge of making new friends is more related to where to meet people than how to manage making the time. Local senior centers typically provide courses and activities specifically for boomers. PsychCentral suggests accessing churches, civic organizations, travel clubs and health clubs to identify social activities.
Taking the initiative to reach out to others pays rich dividends in terms of setting up an active social life. Remember, people always appreciate the gesture and may be too shy or reserved to be the one to make the first move.
2. Volunteer your services for a worthy cause.
There is no shortage of opportunities to help others. Check out RSVP for options. RSVP stands for Retired Senior Volunteer Program. The local senior center and hospitals are also likely to need help. Meeting other boomers who want to help others provides a special connection between like-minded people who value the idea of helping others.
Volunteer jobs tend to be less stressful than paid jobs, providing a low-stress way to meet new people and contribute to the world.
3. Join a team, workout class or friend for socializing and exercising.
An excellent way to get some exercise, bolster endorphins and make some new friends is to join a team or workout class. Any group that meets on a regular basis makes it easier to forge a new relationship naturally over time.
While there are always preferred sports that seniors are interested in based on personal history, it is always a good idea to consider sports that are safe and practical. Pickleball is a low impact sport that many seniors have turned to after spending decades playing tennis. As a hybrid sport that uses a paddle much like a ping pong paddle and a smaller version of a tennis court, it is no surprise that this sport has become so popular with active seniors.
Find a walking buddy to share a walk and conversation with to stay in shape and forge a friendship. Walking with a new acquaintance or friend makes it easy to spend some time together while sharing a few stories.
4. Get a pet.
The advantages of owning a pet are many. The unconditional love that a pet gives is a true joy. Unlike people, they don’t judge you or criticize you. Owning a pet also gives meaning to your life as these pets need you.
Pets make for great company. There are thousands of loving pets that need good homes. Most locales have animal shelters with dogs and cats that need a good home. Adopting a pet is relatively inexpensive and easy.
5. Pursue a hobby.
Finding an enjoyable hobby is a great way to spend time productively and provides a sense of purpose as well as offering opportunities to interact with other hobbyists. There are knitting circles, book clubs, writing groups, gardening clubs, and many groups for just about any hobby imaginable.
Search online under Meetup or Facebook groups to find groups to join.
Studies prove that loneliness is a big problem for seniors. Family members and friends need to reach out to one another in an effort to socialize with boomers who might be silently suffering from a lack of company. As social animals, even introverts require social interaction to thrive.
Baby boomers don’t have to suffer. By embracing some of the tips listed above, seniors can take the initiative to improve their own social life and feel like a part of the community. Chronic loneliness causes many mental and health problems that are preventable by taking some simple steps to take care of ourselves and one another.