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Chronic Loneliness in the Elderly: How to Help

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N. · Updated Mar 08, 2023

    Chronic Loneliness in the Elderly: How to Help

    As we grow older, generally, our social circle tends to become smaller. You might no longer want to go out with everyone or socialize on a daily basis. There could be times when you start feeling alone even if you are physically not alone. Haven’t you seen your parents being grumpy about you not being able to spend time with them? Why do they say that? Because they start feeling lonely especially when you have a single parent. Loneliness in the elderly is a common phenomenon. Chronic loneliness can affect their mental and physical wellness if not handled at the right time in the right way. 

    Let’s learn more about chronic loneliness in the elderly people.

    What Is Chronic Loneliness?

    Chronic loneliness is generally a term used to define loneliness and social isolation that continues over a long period. Even though temporary loneliness or chronic loneliness isn’t technically a mental health disorder, it still has negative effect on your psychological and mental well-being. 

    There is a difference between wanting to stay alone and enjoying your alone time, and feeling lonely. You could even enjoy a meal in a restaurant alone or you could feel lonely even when you are together with a group of people. Loneliness is a state of mind that has nothing to do with how many people you live with or are surrounded with. 

    Chronic loneliness is characterized by feelings of being isolated, alone, and separated from others. Loneliness in the elderly is no different. A person, especially elderly people, dealing with chronic loneliness often find themselves unable to connect with others on a profound level. Even the most extrovert or outgoing person could become a victim of chronic loneliness, especially at an elderly stage in life. 

    It is extremely important to help yourself or someone who needs help to get over the sadness and loneliness in their life. If not handled with care, chronic loneliness in the elderly can lead to depression

    Symptoms of Chronic Loneliness in the Elderly People

    The signs and symptoms of chronic loneliness differ as per personalities and situations you are dealing with. In case you are experiencing all or few of the below isolation symptoms, you might be suffering from chronic loneliness.

    • You might find it difficult to connect even with your close friends and family members. You might talk to them, but it doesn’t seem to be a naturally flowing conversation.
    • Lack of ‘best friends’ or ‘close friends’ in your life. You might have multiple good friends or you might be a part of various groups, but you miss having that 3 AM friend who gets you and understands you completely. 
    • Engaging socially would make you feel exhausted and worn out.
    • Continuous feeling of loneliness or isolation despite being with a group of people. 

    Ways to Deal with Chronic Loneliness in the Elderly People

    There’s definitely a cure for chronic loneliness and all it takes is a little effort. If you’re the one dealing with chronic loneliness, read and implement some self-help tips that could cure the sadness and feeling of being alone. If your loved one – who could be elderly people or anyone for that matter, is suffering from chronic loneliness, some of these loneliness curing tips could help.

    Stay in touch with them to help them overcome their loneliness

    If you are staying away from friends and family, ensure to keep in touch with them on a regular basis especially your parents (if they are dealing with chronic loneliness). Being in contact and conversing with them on a regular basis makes them feel wanted and loved. Take regular updates about their health, finances, and overall life happenings. 

    Indulge in rewarding and relaxing activities to forget the loneliness

    Everyone has their favorite show and comfort food. Don’t you? Put on some comedy show or any humorous content and bring in your favorite comfort food. Have a relaxing time on that couch. And when you’re done with it, do something else you love. Ensure to include different physical activities that help you pursue your happiness and keep you engaged. Whether it’s about reading your favorite book, bringing out your DIY artist, or listening to music. 

    Pick up a new hobby to get over your loneliness

    If you are working on the cure of your sadness or depression and if you have a lot of free time, how about using those precious hours to follow your hobby? Always wanted to write? Learn piano? Make beautiful pots? Who is stopping you? 

    Chronic loneliness is more of a psychological game rather than a physical condition. When you start enjoying yourself, you start feeling good from within. And that replaces all the negative and sad feelings holding inside you. This helps you in improving your social engaging skills. It will also increase your urge to communicate and connect with like-minded people in a deeper sense. 

    Make time for some exercise to overcome the depression

    Any form of physical exercise – whether it’s a gym workout or a yoga stretch, exercising helps open up your mind and improve your mood. If you are helping to curb depression in older adults, make them do smaller and easier yoga asanas. Simple exercises that would be safe can also prove refreshing for them to enjoy. 

    Step out of the house and enjoy the outdoors

    Make sure to step out of the house every day for some time. It could be walks, jogging, gardening, or meeting friends. Studies have shown that spending time amidst the nature can help relieve feelings of sadness, depression, negativity, anxiety, and stress. Chronic loneliness in the elderly people or depression in older adults can be tackled by taking them on easy treks and recreational trips. This can be with a group of other elderly adults looking for someone to share their feelings with.

    Join a cause – help others to help yourself get over isolation

    Know your interest and begin volunteering. There could be library management, animal welfare, trash cleanup, or teaching underprivileged kids. Look out for community events on social media groups and websites and get yourself registered. The satisfaction of helping someone is beyond any other happy feeling. 

    Some people (whether elderly or young) experience loneliness on a few days, but others might feel lonely or depressed for months and years with no signs of improvement. Since it’s not termed as a mental disorder, there is no defined treatment for chronic loneliness.

    Getting over this state of mind is definitely difficult but not impossible. It might take some time, especially if you are an introvert or shy person by default. But, gradually, with the right attitude and approach you can build strong relationships and connections with people. 

    If the symptoms of depression, loneliness, or sadness persist for a longer period or start getting severe, consult a therapist or psychiatrist who can guide you the right way. 


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N. · Updated Mar 08, 2023

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