Seniors face a lot of issues as they age including financial challenges, health problems, loneliness, depression, and fear. All these things occur in a senior citizen’s life at a time when he or she is already feeling unneeded, inadequate, and outdated.
Technology has created a new scenario where grandparents are no longer are asked to help with homework, read stories, play board games, and go for walks to the park. Grandchildren are busy doing everything on the Internet including homework, playing games with other kids, and talking to their friends on their cell phones.
Grandparent’s ways of doing things have fallen by the wayside. As society keeps making drastic social changes, seniors feel less-and-less a part of their community which exacerbates every issue they face in a far greater way than experienced by previous generations of elderly adults.
Many seniors depend on Social Security for half or more of their income, and it simply isn’t enough. For those living in cold northern states, the cost of fuel and utilities is significantly higher in the winter months. Seniors find they have to sacrifice some essentials in order to stay warm.
Too often, food is the essential that gets cut back, and seniors have been found to be existing on eggs, oatmeal, rice, bread, and peanut butter for weeks at a time to pay for heating oil, propane, or electricity.
When seniors are unable to afford cable and Internet, their television viewing is very limited as is their awareness of things happening around them. Medicare only pays for a percentage of medical costs. Without supplemental insurance, healthcare costs can add up quickly as can prescription drug co-pays. These and other types of financial challenges can lead to depression in seniors.
Seniors deal with health issues ranging from mild conditions to very serious diseases. Chronic illness (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke) are among the most common, and as many as 90 percent of seniors suffer from at least one of these.
Hearing loss is a common side effect of aging. Sadly, a large percentage of the millions who could benefit from hearing aids or other hearing devices don’t seek treatment. The cost, stigma, and inconvenience of traditional hearing aids are all factors. However, hope is on the horizon as new technologies and over-the-counter devices offer more affordable and accessible solutions for those with mild-to-moderate or even hidden hearing loss.
Malnutrition, while not a disease, can result from problems relating to health such as dementia (forgetting to eat), depression (no desire to eat), alcoholism, limited income, and mental illness. Lack of a healthy diet can then lead to malnutrition, weakened bones and muscles, and a poor immune system response.
Family and community can offer seniors help by providing some meals and assisting with the planning a nutritious menu.
The World Health Organization reports that more than fifteen-percent of seniors over the age of 60 suffers from a mental illness or disorder. Depression isn’t always recognized, diagnosed and treated, yet it occurs in seven-percent of the elderly.
Considering the fact that seniors account for over eighteen-percent of suicide deaths in the United States, the need for diagnosis and treatment becomes very clear. Loneliness is a primary contributing factor for depression, and something relatives and friends can lessen with regular visits and outings.
Family members should learn the warning signs of depression and obtain counseling for their senior relative if it becomes an issue. It’s important to understand that dementia is not a normal part of aging. It’s caused by a variety of problems including medication side effects, malnutrition, diabetes, infections, Alzheimer’s disease, and other health issues. In some cases, the dementia may be temporary.
The are many contributing risk factors that result in injuries to seniors. Falls are one of the most serious as they frequently cause broken bones that require surgery. Every senior is aware that a fall can be a life-altering event resulting in lessened mobility or loss of the ability to live at home.
Family members can do a safety check of the home, remove scatter rugs, be sure there are no cords or wires to trip over, place all items on lower shelves and drawers that are easily accessed without the need of a stool, provide assistance at bath time, and be sure bed is low enough to get in and out of easily. Grandchildren are often happy to help with yard work and other chores to assist their grandparents and reduce the risk of a possible fall or other injury.
If you have an elderly parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or even an aging neighbor, take part in helping them stay safe and healthy. Visits, lunch excursions, a walk in the park, and helping with shopping are social activities that let seniors feel connected and appreciated. Families and communities can help seniors face the challenges of their later years.