How Families Can Help Ease a Grandparent’s Loneliness

Senior white lady speaks to her daughter and son by telephone.

Most of us take social connectedness for granted. We regularly interact with neighbors, friends, co-workers, and many others, whether online or in person. Social connectedness is important, and it’s considered crucial for older adults. It can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, improve mental and physical health, and increase overall well-being.

Studies have shown that seniors who have strong social connections are more likely to be active, have better cognitive function, and have a lower risk of developing certain chronic diseases such as heart disease and dementia. What’s more, social connections can provide seniors with a sense of purpose and support, which can be especially important as they age.

“Social connections matter for our cognitive health, and it is potentially easily modifiable for older adults without the use of medication,” Dr. Thomas Cudjoe of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore reported in a recent article.

If you live far away from your parent and are concerned about their loneliness, there are a few things you can do to help.

  1. Stay in regular contact: Make sure to call, text, or video chat with your parent on a regular basis. Try to schedule regular check-ins and make sure to keep them updated on your life as well. Include your spouse and children whenever possible.
  2. Encourage social activities: If your parent is able, encourage them to participate in social activities, such as joining a club or group that aligns with their interests.
  3. Help them stay connected with technology: If your parent is not very familiar with technology, offer to help them set up a device such as a smartphone, smart screen, or tablet, and show them how to use video call and messaging apps to stay in touch with friends and family.
  4. Send them care packages or letters: This can be a nice way to show your parent that you’re thinking of them, and to give them something to look forward to.
  5. Help them find resources in their community: Research and provide information about local resources such as transportation services, senior centers or senior day programs that can help your parent feel more connected.
  6. Seek professional help: If you are concerned about your parent’s well-being and the loneliness is affecting their daily life, consider seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy.

Grandchildren can also keep in touch with their long-distance grandparents, giving the elders an extra-special dose of connectedness.

  1. Phone calls and video chats: Encourage your children to make regular phone calls or video chats with their grandparent. You can even schedule a regular time for the call to make sure it happens.
  2. Mail: Encourage your children to send letters, drawings, or other items through the mail. This can be a fun way for them to stay connected and for their grandparent to see their progress and interests.
  3. Online games and activities: There are many online games and activities that can be played together, such as online puzzles or card games, that can help your children and their grandparent feel connected.
  4. Social media: If your children and their grandparent are on social media, they can use it to share updates and messages.
  5. Virtual tours: Your children can take their grandparent on virtual tours of their school, neighborhood, or other places they visit.
  6. Shared hobbies: If your children and their grandparent share a hobby, such as knitting or gardening, they can work on projects together and share progress through pictures and videos.

A word about technology: While it can help bridge the distance, it’s also important for you and your children to have real conversations with the elder and to share your feelings and thoughts.

Remember that loneliness is a common experience for older adults, especially those who live far away from their family. Think about what you can do to help your parent feel more connected and less isolated.

How LifeCare Advocates can help

If you think your loved one might benefit from regular visits with a psychotherapist, LifeCare Advocates offers both in-person (at their home or our office) and telephone appointments. We also provide support in finding resources and helping our clients engage in creative ways. Contact us to learn more.