The share of older adults aged 65 years or older living alone in South Africa has been steadily increasing in the past years to reach roughly 20% in 2020, according to Statistics South Africa and a recent study conducted by the UN. That’s close to 1 million seniors ageing alone. When you couple that with studies confirming seniors who live alone have a lower life satisfaction, it’s a crisis we must tackle.

What causes loneliness in old age?

As we get older, it’s not uncommon for our social circles to get smaller. We retire and loved ones may start to move abroad or pass away. Add to that logistical challenges, such as loss of mobility and no longer being able to drive, and opportunities for socialising tend to decrease. Regardless of the causes of senior loneliness, the outcomes can be worrying and damaging.

The Effects of Senior Loneliness

Feeling lonely can leave seniors vulnerable to not only physical but also mental health issues. Studies found evidence to link social isolation and loneliness to an increased risk for early mortality, chronic illness, and deteriorating mental health. Adults who report feeling lonely are at higher risk for:

●     High cholesterol

●     Obesity

●     Diabetes

●     Heart disease

●     Anxiety

●     Depression

Loneliness Scale

Based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale*, as well as qualitative field research by their caregiver Champs, CareChamp found that their elderly clients scored an average of 22 (which puts them in the second-highest isolation bracket). They may find their feelings of loneliness a bit overwhelming.

*0-14 indicates Little to No Loneliness; 15-21 indicates Normal Loneliness; 22-29 indicates Moderate Loneliness; 30 & up indicates Extreme Loneliness

What’s being done?

CareChamp’s companion services and “Befriend a Grandparent” initiative have been created to strengthen the social ties of seniors and improve their wellbeing. CareChamp aims to:

●     Make seniors feel less alone;

●     Help them maintain and extend their social relationships;

●     Allow them to use technology as a tool to communicate; and

●     Bring together seniors with similar interests.

How to Treat Senior Loneliness

Read on for CareChamp CEO Sylvia Klopper’s expert advice on things we can all do to combat senior isolation, and take a look at their infographic below.

Get Online

Why not take advantage of all the technology that’s out there? There is something so special about seeing a friendly face. Which is why we suggest a video call with your elderly loved one. “Befriend a Grandparent” makes it easy. All you need is access to a phone or computer. CareChamp will find a match, complete all the necessary safety checks, and arrange a call.

Listen and Learn

The next time you call your elderly friend or relative, try really listening to them and make them feel like they’re valued and important. The more meaningful the interaction, the more positive and beneficial the health effects. Our companions usually spend a few hours a week with the client/s in their care—being a friend and engaging in intellectually stimulating conversation.

About CareChamp

CareChamp provides a platform for connecting vulnerable persons with trusted, reliable home caregivers (aka Champs). The coronavirus epidemic is shining a light on loneliness among the elderly population. Now more than ever, we’re seeing how social isolation is a public-health concern. That said, it’s certainly not a new thing. That’s why CareChamp’s companion services and “Befriend a Grandparent” initiative will continue even after things return to normal.