Over the last few years, the world has become more aware of the danger that loneliness poses. It increases the risk of cognitive decline, dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure, lowers the immune system, is worse for our health than obesity, and increases mortality rate by 26%.
Unfortunately, loneliness among older adults is nothing new. It is only that younger generations have been oblivious to the problem. A lockdown had to be enforced for most of us to slightly grasp one of the realities of getting old: feeling isolated.
We are raised with the romantic idea that we will age enjoying our children’s successes, playing with our grandchildren, meeting our friends, seeing the rest of our family at weekend barbecues, and being cared by them. The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Research shows that after 75 years old, we will start feeling increasingly lonelier each year. It starts with deteriorating health that forces us to miss family events. It only gets worse after the death of our partner.
Loneliness, the loss of a spouse, and loss of health, are the three most common reasons why seniors move into care homes. Unfortunately, there is evidence suggesting that care home residents might feel twice as lonely than those living alone. Why is there such a big gap between resident expectations and the reality of the care home life?
That is a big opportunity for care homes to address after this pandemia: build more environments without barriers for socialization. Environments where seniors can easily break the ice between each other, establish new friendships, and start a new chapter in their lives. Environments where the staff is less busy, and has more time available to spare for a chat with the residents.
There are assistive technology examples like Yetitablet that help to do that. These reduce loneliness by helping seniors to easily break the ice between each other, start new conversations, and build new friendships at the care home. They also help the staff to easily organize group activities without much preparation, which frees up their time so they are less busy to talk with the residents.