A few days ago, while doom scrolling on Instagram, I chanced upon a heartwarming video of a young 20-something man who takes his grandma out for a drive every weekend for their ‘we time’. His reward? Her smile! That’s what most senior citizens need – a little bit of love, care and companionship, to reduce the loneliness they may tend to feel with age.
Indian business magnate Ratan Tata’s recent investment in India’s first companionship startup for senior citizens, is seen as a welcome move in the direction. But it is really upto each one of us to show up for our elderly by being their much-needed companion to make their last few years of life happier and better!
Loneliness in elderly
Elderly people go through a lot of transitions and experiences of their own in terms of how life changes for them. They undergo a lot of physical, emotional, and financial changes that make them prone to getting the feeling of void and loneliness. Lack of sense of belongingness and company are some of the major reasons why that feeling creeps in for the older generation these days.
Health Shots reached out to Dr. Kamna Chhibber, a clinical psychologist and head of the department of mental health and behavioral sciences at Fortis Healthcare, to get a deeper insight into the reasons for loneliness in the elderly.
Why are more and more older people becoming victims of grief and loneliness?
Loneliness can even lead to depression in the elderly. According to Dr. Chhibber, there are not one, but many reasons that add to this rising issue of concern among the elderly.
1. More nuclear families are leading to loneliness among elders
The last few years have seen the rise in the movement of the younger generation to other cities or countries on account of a better life. With this shift, the grandparents or elderly who relied on their younger generations for support, also changed. The elderly, when left alone, struggle to maintain even the basics of life.
2. Technological advancements
As the world is pacing towards better technological developments, the elderly find it hard to keep up with these changes when their younger generation is not around to help them adapt to these changed circumstances.
3. Lack of sense of belonging
A person usually derives his or her sense of belonging by closely interacting with people of the same age group. However, as people get old, they stop deriving that sense of pleasure even with people of their age. This is because even their fellow companions go through their share of struggles in terms of illness or grief.
Dr. Chhibber adds that these changes tend to make the elderly more aware of the stage of life they are at. Moreover, with this predicament, it gets challenging for them to maintain their sense of optimism and hopefulness about what the future holds. They generally associate their security with their future in terms of what and who they have created.
Either they rely on the finances they have accumulated or the work they have done so far, or they rely on the relationships they have nurtured all along, their children, and grandchildren, for deriving their sense of optimism.
The feeling of greater anxiety
Given the changed scenario, older people tend to slip into depression and feel worried or anxious about the difficulty in managing normal activities of life. Knowing that there is no one to take care of them, they might experience low mood swings, disturbing sleep patterns, and trouble maintaining interest or deriving pleasure from activities they used to earlier enjoy.
With a lack of company and support, they tend to feel more grief and experience low moods that further affect their functionality. Anxiety also tends to increase. They feel greater irritability and disappointment with the changes transpiring in their family and society as a whole.
What you can do to reduce loneliness in elderly
Bearing in mind the rising challenges and loneliness the elderly feel in today’s modern world, the responsibility to cater to their emotional, physical, and financial needs rests upon us as a larger community and not just one individual.
We all, as individuals, should keep on reflecting and introspecting on finding out ways to be more accommodating towards making the elderly feel a part of the society they live in.
Continuous efforts should be made to accord the right kind of respect for the values our elderly bring into our community. We should never lose sight of their contribution in shaping us the way we are today and recognizing the strong foundation they have created for us by proving us the opportunities.