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When Loneliness is a Problem: Warning Signs

01 Nov, 2021

Mental Wellbeing

When you feel lonely, you don’t need to take a test to know for sure. If you feel lonely, you are lonely. But remember: Loneliness is not a natural part of growing older. Although many seniors experience it, many others are able to establish and maintain feelings of social connection.

But it can be difficult to tell if someone close to you is affected by loneliness. After all, many seniors don’t like to admit they need help. They may be afraid of seeming “old.” So it is possible that someone close to you could be suffering without letting you know that they are lonely. Symptoms of loneliness can also be confused with normal signs of growing older.

Some of the signs of loneliness are:

  • Sudden neglect of hygiene and personal care
  • Lack of motivation
  • Mysterious aches and pains
  • A noticeable increase in negative thinking and pessimism
  • A drop in energy levels
  • Declining interest in social activities
  • A change in reaching out to you—either less frequently or more frequently
  • An increase in activities that might be ways of coping with loneliness, such as shopping
  • An increase in hot baths or showers, which can act as substitutes for the warmth of human contact

If a senior experiences any type personal loss, including the loss of a pet, be aware of any changes in his or her behavior. Recently moving or losing the ability to drive can also trigger loneliness. So if a friend or loved one has experienced an event that could reduce his or her social connections, reach out.

Also, be alert to feelings of increased loneliness if you’ve experienced a loss or a change in your own life. Addressing these feelings early on will help you in the long run since loneliness can get worse over time if not dealt with.

Loneliness has also been linked to a 40-percent increase in a senior's risk of developing dementia.