Living alone as an elderly person can be a challenging experience, especially in a bustling city like Singapore. The feeling of loneliness and isolation can take a toll on their mental and physical well-being. As a caring family member or friend, it’s important to take proactive steps to enhance the lives of elderly individuals living alone.
In this article, we will explore the pressing issue of loneliness in Singaporean senior citizens and provide ten valuable tips to help your elderly family members feel less lonely and isolated.
Loneliness in Singaporean Senior Citizens: A Pressing Issue
What the Studies Say
Singapore, known for its fast-paced lifestyle and high living standards, is not immune to the problem of loneliness among its elderly population. In connection with this, several studies have been conducted to learn more about the challenges faced by seniors to understand how we can help them overcome these problems.
For instance, Duke NUS Medical School, in their study entitled “All the lonely people”: The impact of loneliness in old age on life and health expectancy analysed how loneliness may lead to poor health outcomes, focusing on our senior citizens. Their study shows that more than one in three elderly individuals in Singapore suffer from loneliness and social isolation.
Studies were also done to further explore aspects of loneliness and living alone in elderly people. One such study, entitled Social Disconnection and Living Arrangements among Older Adults: The Singapore Chinese Health Study, was conducted by the NUS, which included esteemed researchers in medicine, public health, and social sciences.
In this research, it was determined that elderly people living alone are at an increased risk of social disconnection. It was also observed that social disconnection is often also affected by different factors like poor health, which poses challenges to the elderly’s keeping a good relationship with family and friends.
These alarming statistics highlight the urgent need to address this issue and improve the lives of elderly citizens living alone.
Effects of Loneliness and Social Isolation on the Overall Health of Older Adults
Loneliness can have detrimental effects on the mental and physical health of senior citizens. It can lead to a lot of health problems like depression, anxiety, and even cognitive impairment. Additionally, social isolation can exacerbate existing health conditions and reduce the overall quality of life for elderly individuals. We must recognize the significance of this problem and take meaningful actions to alleviate the loneliness experienced by our elderly loved ones.
How the Singaporean Government Addresses the Concerns on Elderly Loneliness
The Singaporean government has recognized the stress and loneliness faced by the elderly, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is committed to supporting their mental well-being. In response to concerns raised about suicide and mental health support for seniors, the government has taken various initiatives to address these issues.
Supporting and Promoting Mental Health Initiatives
To combat loneliness among the elderly, the government works closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and community partners to provide support and promote mental health. Community befriending programs have been implemented, where around 4,000 ambassadors reach out to the disadvantaged elderly, offering companionship and support. These programs have proven effective in reducing feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
Furthermore, the government conducts training sessions on mental well-being and raises awareness about suicide prevention. The aim is to equip individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to identify signs of distress and provide appropriate support.
Encouraging Community Support for the Elderly
In 2020, it’s estimated that around 10% of Singaporeans aged 60 and above are living alone. In response to this, the Ministry of Health implements the Eldercare Centre (EC) service model, composed of befrienders who conduct regular check-ins with seniors, providers of healthcare services, and other services relevant to senior care and support.
Outreach programs by the Silver Generation Office (SGO) are also organized to complement the efforts of EC in combating social isolation among the elderly. These programs create opportunities for seniors to engage in social activities and build meaningful connections with others. The SGO also refers elderly folks to relevant Social Service Offices and Family Service Centres to provide support and care for these vulnerable seniors.
Tips to Help Your Elderly Family Members Feel Less Lonely and Isolated
It’s also important to acknowledge that, in addition to the government’s efforts, community care is also an important aspect of helping improve the overall condition of our elderly people who feel lonely. Here are some practical tips to create a positive and fulfilling environment for your elderly loved ones:
1) Foster Better Relationships With Family and Friends
Maintaining strong relationships with family and friends is essential for the emotional well-being of elderly individuals living alone. Encourage regular visits from family members, ensuring that they spend quality time with their loved ones. Additionally, organize family gatherings or events where everyone can come together and create lasting memories. This not only strengthens the bond between generations but also provides a support network for the elderly person.
It’s important to remember that quality time is just as significant as quantity. Encourage family members to engage in meaningful conversations, listen attentively, and show genuine interest in the lives of their elderly loved ones. This fosters a sense of belonging and ensures that the elderly person feels valued and loved.
2) Tell Visitors to Come Often and Stay For Longer
While regular visits are valuable, it’s equally important to ask visitors to stay for longer periods. Often, short visits can leave the elderly feeling even more isolated once their guests have left. By staying for longer durations, visitors can engage in activities together, share meals, or simply enjoy each other’s company. This extended presence creates a sense of companionship and reduces feelings of loneliness.
Encourage family members and friends to plan overnight stays or weekend getaways with their elderly loved ones. This provides an opportunity for deeper connections to be formed and allows for more meaningful interactions. Additionally, it gives the elderly person something to look forward to, which can have a positive impact on their overall well-being.
3) Expose Your Elderly Loved Ones to Stimulating Activities
Engaging in stimulating activities is vital for the mental and emotional well-being of elderly individuals. Encourage your loved ones to participate in activities that they enjoy and that challenge them intellectually. This could include joining a book club, attending art classes, or engaging in hobbies such as gardening or cooking.
Consider organizing outings to cultural events, museums, or local heritage sites. These activities enable the elderly to sharpen their minds and socialise simultaneously. Engaging in new experiences and learning opportunities can greatly enhance the lives of the elderly, providing them with a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
4) Encourage Physical Activities
Physical activities bring many benefits, both for the physical and mental well-being of the elderly. Encourage your elderly loved ones to engage in regular exercise routines that are suitable for their age and abilities. This could include activities such as walking, swimming, or gentle yoga.
Organize group exercise sessions specifically designed for elderly individuals living alone. This not only promotes physical health but also creates a sense of community. Encourage your loved ones to join local community centres or senior citizen groups that offer fitness programs tailored to their needs. By participating in physical activities, the elderly can improve their overall well-being and reduce the risk of health issues.
5) Encourage Adopting and Spending Time With Pets
Pets can bring immense joy and companionship to the lives of elderly individuals. Encourage your loved ones to consider adopting a pet, such as a dog or a cat that suits their lifestyle and capabilities. Pets provide unconditional love and can help alleviate feelings of loneliness.
If adopting a pet is not feasible, consider arranging visits from therapy animals or volunteering at animal shelters. These interactions can provide a sense of purpose and companionship for the elderly. Spending time with animals has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve overall mental well-being.
6) Promote Health-Seeking Behaviour
Encourage your elderly loved ones to prioritize their physical and mental health by seeking regular medical check-ups. Make sure they are aware of the available healthcare services and support systems in Singapore. This includes informing them about nearby clinics, hospitals, and specialists who cater to the needs of the elderly.
Promote healthy lifestyle choices by encouraging a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper medication management. Educate your loved ones about the importance of self-care and the impact it can have on their overall well-being. By prioritizing health-seeking behaviour, you can enhance their quality of life and ensure they receive the necessary care.
7) Alleviate Underlying Contributors to Loneliness
Loneliness can sometimes be caused by factors beyond living alone. Identify and address any underlying contributors to loneliness that your elderly loved ones may be experiencing. This could include mobility issues, hearing or visual impairments, or language barriers.
Take steps to alleviate these contributors by providing the necessary support and resources. Arrange for assistive devices, such as hearing aids or walking aids, if needed. Connect your loved ones with support groups or organizations that cater to individuals facing similar challenges. By addressing these underlying contributors, you can help reduce feelings of loneliness and improve their overall well-being.
8) Consider Therapy and Counselling
Sometimes, professional help is needed to address the emotional challenges faced by elderly individuals living alone. Encourage your loved ones to consider therapy or counselling sessions to help them navigate through any emotional difficulties they may be experiencing.
Connect them with professionals who specialize in geriatric counselling or who have experience working with the elderly. Therapy and counselling can provide a safe space for your loved ones to express their emotions and receive guidance on how to cope with feelings of loneliness or isolation.
9) Maximize the Benefits of Technology
Technology can be a powerful tool in enhancing the lives of elderly individuals living alone. Encourage your loved ones to embrace technology and explore its various benefits. Teach them how to use smartphones, tablets, or computers to stay connected with family and friends through video calls and social media platforms.
Introduce them to online communities and forums that cater to their interests and hobbies. This allows them to connect with like-minded individuals and form new friendships. Additionally, explore the various applications and services available that can assist with everyday tasks, such as online grocery shopping or ride-sharing services.
10) Consider Elderly Co-Living and Assisted Living Options
If living alone becomes increasingly challenging for your elderly loved ones, consider exploring elderly co-living or assisted living Singapore options. These arrangements provide a supportive environment where individuals can live independently while having access to social activities, healthcare support, and assistance with daily tasks.
Research co-living communities or assisted living facilities in Singapore that align with your loved one’s needs and preferences. Such research may be initiated by learning more about how elderly co-living arrangements work here. We also highly recommend Retire Genie for such, as we provide high-quality options suitable for your elderly loved ones, helping them to feel less isolated and more at ease.
Visit the facilities together and involve your loved ones in the decision-making process. Transitioning to a co-living or assisted living environment can significantly enhance their quality of life and provide the necessary support they may require.
Enhancing the lives of elderly individuals living alone should be considered a group responsibility, especially in a collectivistic society like Singapore. Given our rapidly ageing society, our elderly people may need support in ensuring they have good physical health and mental health and are not suffering from social isolation.
By implementing these ten tips, you can make a significant difference in the lives of your elderly family members. Among the solutions offered above, a studio apartment for elderly co-living may be one of the best options, as this helps an elderly person meet their holistic health needs.
Loneliness and social isolation should not be accepted as an inevitable part of ageing. Let us unite as a community to ensure our elderly loved ones feel valued, connected, and supported throughout their golden years.