Your senior parents may be among the 43 percent of adults 60 and older who are lonely.
That feeling of isolation can lead to health issues such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain and sleep problems.
Understanding loneliness and how to prevent it is increasingly important — for your parents and for you.
Here are several ways you can help your parents keep connected with others.
Make time for family and friends
A significant contributor to loneliness is a lack of meaningful relationships. Finding ways to spend more time with your parents may help strengthen your bond.
Start a tradition of weekly or monthly family dinners — eating meals together encourages conversation and fosters deeper connections.
If your parent has a hobby such as knitting, ask to be taught how to do it.
Send monthly updates regarding your parents to extended family members and encourage everyone to regularly touch base with phone calls, letters and in-person visits.
Get your parents involved in the community, find hobbies that interest them, or give them a houseplant or low-maintenance pet to help foster a sense of purpose.
Learn more about their interests and find volunteer opportunities that match them.
When possible, ask your parents for help with daily tasks or solicit their input on life decisions.
Joining a local church can help your parents develop friendships with others and can help bring more meaning to life.
Health concerns such as hearing and vision loss and fear of falls can lead to isolation and loneliness.
Encourage your parents to schedule regular checkups with a physician, or discuss home care with them. A healthcare professional can pinpoint risks to your parents’ health so they can address and overcome them.
Some seniors resist using assistive devices such as emergency response pendants, canes or walkers — but they can be the difference between a social life and isolation.
Talk to your parents about options and benefits of those devices.
Technology isn’t a replacement for in-person contact, but it can help your parents feel more connected to family members and friends.
Introduce them to the basic benefits of a computer for video chatting such as Skype or a tablet for emailing, or teach them how to text and share photos on a cellphone.
If your parents are willing to explore other technological outlets, set them up with basic social media profiles and teach them how to friend family members on social media.
Need more advice on addressing unwanted isolation?