Learn the harmful effects of loneliness

Research reveals that 14% of seniors enrolled in Medicare have limited social networks. For these individuals, health care costs are over $1600 more per year.

It might not be surprising that isolated seniors report poorer health than socially-involved seniors. It might be surprising to know, however, that one study found the negative effects of loneliness to be similar to the effects of smoking 15 cigarettes per day! Here are a few suggestions to help your loved one avoid loneliness:

Help them re-engage in past hobbies: Consider the hobbies and passions that piqued their interest in the past. If they are no longer able to do those things, try to brainstorm ways of adapting those hobbies or try to find new interests altogether.

Create a monthly plan of activities: Some seniors get in the habit of watching TV for most of the day. To keep them active and socially engaged, consider creating a monthly plan of activities that will connect them with others. For example, you may schedule a phone call with a grandchild and a special dinner with family members. Remember, mealtimes can be particularly lonely for seniors who must eat alone.

Encourage visits and be creative: Encourage family and friends to visit your loved one. Most seniors, even those with cognitive decline, still enjoy many activities. Try to be creative to find activities that your loved one will enjoy. For example, you could look at old photos together, watch a movie, or listen to music.

Consider companionship: Caregivers aren't able to always be there to provide companionship and assistance. If you believe your loved one would benefit from additional companionship, consider professionalHome Instead Senior  assistance. Professional caregivers can assist with meal preparation, transportation to activities, or simply be there to brighten up your loved one's day.