Being Along and Being Lonely Are Different
by Brandee Cowley, RN BSN, Apostolic Christian Skylines Home Care Services

Loneliness is not the same as being alone. Some solitude and quiet can be healthy when being alone is a choice. But a complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and the outside world—called social isolation—can affect their health. Older people who want companionship but rarely get a visitor are more likely to experience physical and emotional effects.

According to a recent study, loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity! Some characteristics of social isolation are staying home for lengthy periods of time, having no communication with family, acquaintances or friends, and willfully avoiding any contact with other people when those opportunities do occur.

Older adults who prefer to remain in their homes—some studies say that’s as many as 90% of them—are particularly at risk for becoming socially isolated.

In the past, family members were one way for seniors to stay socially connected to the outside world with visits and transportation. Now, because family members often live far away or have their hands full with their own families or careers, it is increasingly difficult for them to be the link between the outside world and an older grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle. Fortunately, there are community services that can help fill in.

Congregate Dining

Congregate meals are provided in community settings such as senior centers, churches or senior housing communities. They offer an opportunity to meet new or old friends and engage in social activities and enjoy a nutritious meal. There are several locations in the Peoria area where an older adult can join a group of seniors to share a meal. For a list of area locations, click here or get in touch with Mitchell Forrest at the Central Illinois Agency on Aging (309-674-2071).

Adult Day Services

Adult Day Care Centers are designed to provide care and companionship for older adults who need assistance or supervision during the day. Programs offer relief to family members and caregivers, allowing them to go to work, handle personal business, or just relax while knowing their relative is well cared for and safe. In Peoria and Morton, OSF Senior World serves the tri-county area with a state-certified adult day services program. See www.osfhealthcare.org/adult-day.

Friendly Visitor Programs

Friendly Visitor programs individually match carefully screened and trained volunteers with socially isolated seniors living in assisted living and health care communities or in their own homes, condos, and apartments. Once a volunteer is paired up with a senior who has similar interests and life experiences, the volunteer regularly visits their senior at a mutually agreed time. The Center for Youth and Family Solutions offers Friendly Visitor services in Peoria. See www.cyfsolutions.org.

Park District Activities

The Peoria Park District offers seniors classes, entertainment and trips to near and distant destinations. See peoriaparks.org/program-category/seniors.

Churches

Nearly every church has some sort of senior ministry. Some are social, others provide volunteer help to make the church run and some are both.

Home Care

A home care agency can be a part of the solution to social isolation, particularly if there already is a caregiver in the home providing assistance with activities of daily living. For example, a caregiver may help a senior stay connected to activities in the community by providing transportation to and from.

Older adults’ physical and emotional wellbeing requires them to stay connected to the world around them. Social isolation should not be a routine, expected part of aging. It’s up to family and friends to break the cycle.

 

AC Skylines Home Care provides in–home caregiving and nursing services, including medication management. For more information and a no–charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689–5343 or send email to homecare@acskylines.org.Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.

Apostolic Christian Skylines’ continuing care retirement community offers senior living options that include nursing home care, memory care, assisted living, and independent living. For more information, call Apostolic Christian Skylines at (309) 683-2500 or send email to info@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylines.org or Facebook.com/acskylines.