Week 4 was a mixture of research and branching out with my project. Through my research, my experiences with older adults, and time just brainstorming everything that I have learned, it is clear that lack of awareness is one of the major problems with addressing loneliness in the over 65 population. Loneliness is an epidemic and is not getting enough attention. There are a significant number of older adults who are socially isolated but don’t know the toll it is taking on their mental and physical health. Social isolation happens gradually over time. It might start with a spouse getting sick, limiting the couple’s social activity. Then the spouse may pass away, leaving the caretaker spouse alone. The widow or widower then may feel uncomfortable with their existing coupled off friends and choose to stay home over an invitation out. My research shows that almost 50% of women age 75+ live alone. And one in five adults over the age of 50 are affected by social isolation. Most of these older adults don’t realize that they are isolated. The best way to address a problem is first to acknowledge it. That is why awareness is important to my project. Not only awareness to the public but awareness for these elders can possibly lead to them diagnosing themselves with being lonely leading to steps to fix their loneliness. Even if some older adults feel lonely, they probably don’t know how to try to fix it. Spreading awareness can cause action by the older adults, or their family or friends. It is not only important to inform the affected older adults about the impact of chronic loneliness but also their loved ones who might not realize they are suffering. Through personal experience I know that children tend to take care of their parents as they get older. If we spread awareness to the family and friends of older adults they are more likely to take action for their parents. Not only would this be helpful, they are more capable to help. Family and friends are better at using technology to find a roommate who could lessen their parents loneliness.
I spent a lot of time this week at my church with my outside advisor, Carol talking about different ways to expand and reach out. She will be talking about my project via word of mouth through her bible study classes and other activities. I created a small poster that outlines my project that asks people to reach out to me if they think they could help. I have also been looking through my family contacts. I have been in contact with an age 75+ psychologist who understands the impact of loneliness and has a unique perspective on it(Not to spoil a different blog). It has been a little bit difficult to contact her because she only has a landline. I had to pick up the phone and call her because she doesn’t text or use social media. I see first hand how the older adult population chooses not to use technology to communicate in the same way my generation does. I realize that I need to change my mode of communication to reach this population. I hope to get more people involved in my project by creating awareness through my community and family connections. My plan is to meet with older adults and ask them to tell me their stories in the following weeks.