According to the Times of India, 40 percent of seniors in Mumbai live alone. Many of their children are living and working abroad, or in suburbs where they have little contact with their parents. This means that seniors are suffering and dying alone, which has led to a dramatic increase in depression. The police helpline that specifically focuses on senior citizens received 24,863 calls in 2011, which was up 600 from the previous three years. With more people living past the age of 80, there are an increasing number of seniors aging in loneliness. So, what can we do to help?
There is no question of the power of laughter. According to clinical findings, laughter can provide a higher feeling of wellbeing and diminishes the risk of depression. It also improves heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress. Therefore, many communities around India have been starting laughter clubs to promote happiness in the lives of senior citizens. These laughter clubs utilize laughter yoga, which was started from a garden in Andheri in 1995. Typically it is practiced in the morning and acts as a morning alarm for the day. Since the brain cannot distinguish between real laughter and fake laughter, the yoga allows practitioners to fake laugh their way to happiness. If you’d like to help out your elderly parents but don’t have a lot of time, why not start a laughter club in your community?
Pick Up That Phone and Call Your Parents. Just Call Them.
It really does not take that much time to make a phone call. A simple phone call can do wonders for their mood and health and all it takes from you is five minutes. Five minutes once a week to call your parents or grandparents and tell them how much you love them can help improve their happiness and provide them with a virtual interpersonal relationship that will break them out of isolation.
If you have more time to volunteer, why not reach out to another grandparent whose child may not be calling them so frequently? You can support a gran and help extend your neighbor’s lifeline of support. This program, based in India and organized by HelpAge India, currently reaches out to 826 rural elders across 22 states. Through the program you can volunteer to help and talk to seniors and simply be a friend to those who may be experiencing isolationism.
Get Them a Pet. Animal Therapy is a Real Thing.
A pet can help provide the personal relationship that may be missing from your loved one’s life. Simply petting a dog or cat releases endorphins that make people feel happier. This can greatly help diminish the depression risks associated with isolationism. A pet such as a dog needs to be walked, which can force your loved ones to go outside. The fresh air and greenery is scientifically proven to increase happiness levels and walking a dog outside will also expose them to more like-minded individuals in their community.
Be sure though that you get a pet that is right for your loved one. You don’t want one that is too high maintenance, depending on their health and condition. If you do decide to adopt a pet for your loved one, check out animal shelters across India including Animal Aid Unlimited, CUPA, and People for Animals.
It’s the duty of the younger generations to take care of their elders and it doesn’t take much time at all. If you want to get started simply start a laughter club, call your parents weekly, or get them a loving pet.
Be patient about teaching the seniors Smartphones. You think they are technophobic. They are NOT.
They have thrived in absence of search engines and social media. They still can. Probably we can’t. Don’t think or operate from the premise that they are technophobic. It’s us who are low on patience. Think of the times when we as children asked them the same questions over and over again and they lovingly answered us until we were satisfied. You can teach them social media, Skype, video calling etc. that’ll help them stay in touch with old friends or their grandchildren living far away. To get your first training lessons on teaching an elder smartphones, you can download the smartphone booklet from here.
Let’s show them love. Not just during Diwali, or New Year’s. But every time we can. It’s a simple thing.
Jane Sandwood is a professional freelance writer with over 10 years’ experience across many different fields. She has a particular interest in issues effecting elderly care and health.