The human body responds to loneliness in the same way it responds to chronic stress
Loneliness is considered by many to be a new-coming epidemic in the United States. There is no subset of the population more impacted by this than our senior citizens.
This is because of both the rate of seniors impacted by loneliness (25% of people aged 70+) and the drastic physical impacts loneliness can have on the aged.
Many studies show that loneliness has a strong correlation with heart conditions, diabetes, mental illness, and more. This is because the human body responds to loneliness in the same way it responds to chronic stress.
Hormones that inhibit the body’s immune responses are released and trigger physical reactions like inflammation. In fact, it’s been proven that regarding mortality, loneliness has a negative effect greater than the smoking of 15 cigarettes a day.
What causes loneliness?
It’s difficult to conclude in each specific example what the absolute cause of loneliness can be.
For most of our loved ones, it is a culmination of circumstances. Major life events have been shown to increase the vulnerability a senior may have towards loneliness.
The death of a friend or spouse, moving to a new home, or a family member moving away are all major shakeups that can trigger loneliness.
The situation often worsens as seniors go through sensory or mobility impairments these issues can create feelings of desolation and solitude.
Even typical caregivers can often be faced with these realities and unable to properly assist in helping their loved ones escape this mental condition.
Often caregivers are worn out from assisting with 100 other responsibilities, and simply don’t have the fuel left to fully engage with their loved ones beyond surface-level conversations that don’t leave anyone fulfilled.
This is where Papa can offer a chance for a brighter tomorrow.
They can be the additional hands on deck, and the loving friend that everyone wants for their aging loved ones.
Specific strategies that Papa Pals can enact to help your loved ones are:
A deep conversation with an emphasis on listening
Papa Pals don’t have a laundry list of jobs or tasks demanding their attention.
When they are called on, they are 100% committed to the task of providing love and assistance to your loved one.
Be the student
Studies show that seniors respond well when their knowledge and wisdom is passed down.
This can be as simple as a Papa Pal asking a loved one to teach them how to knit or asking about what he or she did in their career.
Encouragement can be an incredible tool in alleviating loneliness in seniors.
It can help move them gently towards a new social activity with others, or into a place of expressing themselves that allows them to feel fulfilled and authentic.