When isolation causes depression in the elderly, and how to help - nCenter

When isolation causes depression in the elderly, and how to help

In the current pandemic, isolation has impacted the elderly, the most vulnerable population to this virus, even more. While many people have returned to semi-normal functioning, the elderly may remain isolated out of safety concerns. Until the next scientific breakthrough and potential vaccine, it could remain this way for a period of time. 

While isolating from others may protect one’s physical health from the virus, it can hurt psychological health. According to the National Institute on Aging, isolation is associated with negative health outcomes, including depression. While living alone does not necessarily mean being lonely, both loneliness and isolation can contribute to poorer health and poorer aging. Maintaining a strong immune system is important now more than ever, and a sense of social connection can lead to better health outcomes

One of the safest ways to stay connected to loved ones and other people is through technology. The silver lining of this pandemic is that it happened when the majority of people have access to numerous ways of remote communication, including Facetime, Facebook, texts and calls.  It’s important for grandmothers to Facetime their grandchildren being picked up from school, and it’s important for friends to gather on Zoom.  Even neighbors can stand by their houses talking at a distance across the proverbial fence.  These activities done once or twice a week support the truism that we are all in this together, and this realization can positively impact both mental and physical health.

Staying connected to the natural world by going outside, taking a walk, and getting some Vitamin D from the sunshine is also a way to stay engaged with life. So enjoy a sunset; appreciate a bird’s song, or go outside and feel the fresh air on your face.  

While we wait out this pandemic, many of the elderly are at home for extended periods of time.  Here are some ways to create meaning during this challenge: 

  • Turn a living area into a sanctuary with candles, flowers and pictures. 
  • Explore interests, passions and creative endeavours such as journaling, cooking or organizing photos and music .  
  • Read new books or old favorites and share thoughts about them with friends and family.  Start a virtual book club.
  • Laugh at a short video, TV show or comic strip and share it with a friend. 
  • Engage not only the mind but the soul with activities that have NOT been pursued when life was busier.  These could be writing letters to friends or creating an audio recording for posterity. 
  • Refresh a sense of child-like curiosity in life and keep learning new things from spiritual readings to downloading new interesting apps  to adopting a pet or plant to care for. 
  • And ultimately, reconnect with a life purpose or find meaning in life through stillness, inquiry and contemplation. 

Even when we cannot physically connect to others, we can always connect with ourselves and enjoy this quality time of nourishing our souls. 

However, if isolation has led to persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, numbness, fatigue, loss of interests, changes in sleep, appetite or concentration, it may be time to seek professional help through counseling and neurofeedback at the nCenter. The pandemic has been traumatic for all of us, and it is perfectly reasonable to be feeling the pain of this current circumstance. But remember, feeling depressed is not a required part of aging and does not need to be the norm. 

The nCenter offers telehealth options for counseling to receive the help needed from the safety of home. But ultimately, remember that you are not alone, and we are here to help. 

 

Karalee Kothe, nCenter neurofeedback and qEEG technician