That’s a dangerous correlation for the 12% of Canadian seniors who reported feeling isolated or lonely long before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. What’s the good news? Almost 90% of studies in one recent review showed that key therapies can make a real impact in how lonely someone feels.
If you’re looking to head loneliness off at the pass as the days grow shorter, and social distancing measures linger on, these three therapies top the list:
Laughter is the best medicine. No, really. It’s true. Laughter therapy uses humour to relieve stress and pain, and improve someone’s well-being. How? Incorporating specific laughter exercises into a senior’s life (individually or in a safely distanced group setting) can ease feelings of loneliness. Same goes for other activities geared to get folks chuckling, from comedy films to funny novels, silly games or puzzles. Even clowns make the list. Think about incorporating formal or informal laughter into the daily routine, or talk to your residence about what options are on offer for more structured ways to get the giggling going.
Green thumbs make happy hearts. There’s a reason your social feeds are overwhelmed with photos of plants, plants and more plants these days. Gardening feels good. So good, in fact, that entire therapeutic methods have been designed around it. How? Horticultural therapy purposefully uses plants and plant-related activities – as well as the garden landscape – to promote well-being. And studies show it was one of the most successful loneliness interventions tested. Think about bringing some plant life into your home or room, and if you’re looking for a more formal course of complementary treatment, consider what a registered practitioner might provide.
Memories make the mood. Looking back can have a positive impact on the way you look forward, and what you look forward to. Reminiscence therapy – which draws on past memories to improve well-being – has been shown to reduce loneliness by as much as 30% for elderly study participants. How? The practice incorporates a handful of related-but-distinct therapeutic approaches. From simple reminiscence (where someone shares personal memories and stories) to more formalized life review sessions: this therapy supports a broad understanding of someone’s past history, and can play a major part in person-centred care. Weaving more opportunities to reminisce into regular conversation is a good place to start. For example, prompting a story by starting it off with “I remember when we went to Florida. What did we use to do at the beach there?”. On a bigger scale, looking into therapists specialized in this kind of care – or inquiring about the possibilities of working it into the daily routine at a residence – can curb loneliness. Especially as we head into the winter months, and anything the pandemic might throw our way.
Loneliness is pervasive, and social distancing doesn’t help. It’s also one of those things where your best defense may be a strong offense. Keeping social connectedness top of mind and considering therapies like these three leading options as we continue to weather the COVID-19 storm can be a positive step in a healthier direction.