Senior Isolation over the Holidays

No matter what you’re celebrating, the winter holidays usually signify a time of togetherness, a time to see friends and family and to catch up with one another. This holiday season, many of us are disappointed that our usual get-togethers may have to be put on hold. But for many seniors the holidays have often been a time of isolation, even before COVID-19.

Statistics Canada found that one fifth of seniors crave more social interaction. Over the years, social circles may begin to shrink as seniors’ partners or family members pass away, move into care homes away from their friends, or lose their licenses. During the holidays, eating meals alone, being away from friends and family, or not having anyone nearby to celebrate with is particularly difficult when there is such a focus on togetherness, family, and cheer.

Loneliness poses a real threat to our mental and physical health.  People experiencing loneliness may feel alone or unwanted even when they are around others. It may lead to unhealthy habits like exercising less, eating foods that are bad for us, and sleeping poorly.

According to the Government of Canada, seniors without a supportive social circle are 60% more likely to develop dementia. The same study suggests a link between loneliness and depression. Seniors who live outside of a care home live with depression 10 to 15 per cent of the time, while 1 in 4 seniors in care homes are likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Unfortunately, because we love the seniors in our lives and want to keep them safe, we will have to keep our distance for the moment. But that doesn’t mean we are forgetting them. There are lots of ways we can let them know we care during the holiday season.

This year, many of us are celebrating the holidays differently. Instead of large gatherings at loved ones’ homes, you can try Zoom, FaceTime, and phone calls instead. Don’t assume the senior in your life won’t know how to use technology. Make time to help them out with it and meet them where they are most comfortable, a few moments of your time can make a huge difference. While virtual get-togethers aren’t a perfect substitute for in-person gatherings, they allow us to spend the holidays safely with loved ones.

You can also help spread the holiday spirit with The Vic Foundation and Victoria Lifeline’s new initiative, Send a Smile to a Senior. Not only will you be helping to relieve feelings of isolation and loneliness, you will also be supporting local businesses through this difficult time. The initiative will deliver care packages to hundreds of seniors who may otherwise be left out this holiday season at several social housing complexes. You can let them know they are not alone by making a donation that will be used toward goods like reusable masks and food items from businesses right here in Winnipeg.

“Victoria Lifeline staff and volunteers are in the homes of seniors every day. We often see the devastating effects of social isolation and loneliness, which can be quite profound during the holiday season,” said Krystal Stokes, Communications & Public Relations Manager at Victoria Lifeline. “That’s why we are so happy to be a part of the Send a Smile to a Senior program. Anything that can brighten the day of a senior warms our hearts as well.”

To send a smile to a senior this holiday season, visit our website or phone 204-477-3513.

This article is meant to be informational in nature and should not replace the advice of a trained healthcare professional.