Retirement and Loneliness: Tips for Seniors to Combat Sadness in Their Golden Years

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For some older people, retirement brings the unbridled joy of spending more time with loved ones – but for others, the golden years can end up being pretty blue.

More than a third of the elderly reported feeling lonely at least once a week, according to the University of Michigan National Healthy Aging Poll.

The U.S. Surgeon General even called loneliness and social isolation a “serious health epidemic” in his advisory on the healing effects of social connections and community.

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“The transition from a structured system professional life until retirement can lead to a significant decrease in social interactions and sense of purpose,” Neal Shah, CEO of CareYaya Health Technologies, a senior care provider in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, told Fox News Digital.

“This, combined with factors such as the loss of a spouse, loss of friends, or reduced mobility, can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

Man on a park bench

More than a third of older adults feel lonely at least once a week, according to the University of Michigan's National Healthy Aging Poll. (iStock)

The burden of loneliness

Although loneliness may seem relatively harmless, experts warn that it can be very harmful.

“Loneliness can have serious consequences on both mental and physical health“, warned Shah.

“This can lead to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline and even an increased risk of developing dementia.”

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The mental effects of loneliness may have an indirect impact physical healthShah said.

“Lonely people may engage in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking or eating a poor diet,” he said.

“They may also have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to illness and chronic disease.”

Lone woman

Although loneliness may seem relatively harmless, experts warn that it can be very harmful. “Loneliness can have serious consequences on mental and physical health,” said one expert. (iStock)

Loneliness has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke, dementia and heart disease, Nassar noted.

“Being alone can literally and metaphorically break your heart.”

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Loneliness has also been shown to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetesaddiction and early mortality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Loneliness could also have monetary costs, as studies have shown that adults over 50 who feel lonely are more susceptible to financial scams.

3 smart ways to relieve loneliness

There are many strategies to help alleviate loneliness in older adults, including these three tips.

1. Retired older adults should stay socially active and engaged

“This may include joining clubs or groups that match their interests, volunteering, participating in community events or taking classes to learn new skills,” Shah said.

Solitary retreat

Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, dementia and heart disease, experts note. (iStock)

2. They must nurture and maintain existing relationships with family and friends

Shah emphasized this point – and noted that adopt a pet can also provide camaraderie and a sense of purpose.

Nassar echoed the importance of increasing social activities, such as playing cards, joining a book club, participating in bingo or trivia nights and being part of a church group.

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“It’s in our nature to want to be with each other, and it’s important that we take the time to meet that need for connection,” he said.

3. They should rely on technology if they don't have family or friends nearby

“Video calls, social media and online forums can help [retired seniors] interact with loved ones and like-minded people,” Shah said.

Senior painting

Joining clubs or groups that match their interests, volunteering, attending community events, or taking classes to learn new skills are all ways retired seniors can avoid loneliness. (iStock)

Home Care Services or companion programs can also provide regular social interaction and support, he added.

When to ask for help

Although occasional sadness or “blues” is normal, persistent feelings can impact quality of life and indicate a more serious depressive disorder, Shah said.

“It is essential to recognize that loneliness and depression are serious problems that can have a significant impact on a retired adult's quality of life,” he said.

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Signs that an elderly person might be coping with depression include a persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness for more than two weeks, depending on the expert.

“Other indicators include loss of interest in activities [individuals] once enjoyed, changes in sleep patterns or appetite, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide,” he told Fox News Digital.

Older woman with doctor

If symptoms of depression are severe and interfere with daily life, it is essential to seek professional help, experts advise. (iStock)

“If these symptoms are severe and interfere with daily life, it is crucial to seek professional help.”

Family and friends should also check on their retired loved ones.

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If they notice warning signs, Shah said, the first step is to have an open, nonjudgmental conversation to express their concern.

“Promoting a strong support system, encouraging social engagement and prioritizing mental health is essential to helping retired adults thrive,” he said.

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“If you or a loved one are experiencing persistent feelings of loneliness or depression, don’t hesitate to seek help. There are many resources and professionals available to provide support and advice.

For more health articles, visit www.foxnews/health.

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