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Scott Fitzgerald has rightly said, “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” Loneliness is like an epidemic that can affect anyone and seniors even more. The University of California, San Francisco conducted a study that showed that when the elderly were isolated then they were at a 59% greater risk of both a mental and a physical decline. The 5 tell tale signs that you are suffering from loneliness and what to do about it are given here.
If you are suffering from loneliness you will find that your sleep pattern is hampered. You will no longer be able to go to sleep easily and neither will you be able to sleep peacefully for long. Often, you will also find that you are waking up with increased heartbeat or suffering from recurring nightmares.
Loneliness causes you to have mood swings. At times you are likely to feel alright and at other times suffer from extreme bouts of depression. This often might make you overspend. Thus you will find that often you are buying a lot of things. While a little retail therapy might be comforting, however, if you find that your purchases have doubled and often tend to be things that you don’t need at all then it could be a warning sign that you should pay heed to.
Sometimes when we get busy with work we either just ‘grab a bite’ or eat at a much later time than we should. However, if you find that your hunger level has really gone down and you are missing meals once too often, then it could be that loneliness is gripping you. Loneliness can cause the other extreme as well – binge eating and that too often junk and processed food. A sudden change in weight – gain or loss, constantly feeling exhausted, and feeling too lazy to exercise – all are effects of loneliness. If you are experiencing these symptoms then it is time to assess your feelings and reach out to someone for help.
It is a vicious circle – the more lonely you are, the more alone you would want to be. This could in the form of you not wanting to go out or meet friends, apathy to social gathering and missing on phone calls to family. You might also not like driving anymore either. This is because driving means going somewhere and if social isolation has got to you then you would want to avoid this as well. Sitting or staying at the house also causes mobility issues at your age. The bones and muscles aren’t flexible anymore and when you decide to stay cocooned in one place, the mobility sinks further. So, if you notice these symptoms happening then it’s definitely a sign that loneliness is getting the better of you.
It is one thing to bathe once, or maybe even a couple of times a day, so as to feel clean; but if you find that you are heading into the shower more often than that simply because the warm water soothes you then, as research has shown, this is a sign that you may be heading towards depression. Studies have found that elders who are lonely tend to connect the feeling of physical warmth with that of being social! Hence too much of warm shower each day and it is time for you to re-look at your life.
Amongst other reasons, a senior might be feeling lonely because:
While it is difficult to do away with loneliness completely, it can be reduced. The best way you can do this is by reducing your isolation. This can be done by:
We might be surrounded by people all day and yet feel lonely. This is because we, humans, need to connect with one another at a deeper level. Research shows direct impact of loneliness on elders lifespan. If you know of a senior suffering from loneliness then be proactive and help him/her. If you are lonely and suffering then it is time to bring changes and make life a better one.