Written by Teresa
Senior citizens who lose a spouse suddenly find themselves bereft of emotional support, a best friend, and a touchstone for all that’s familiar. The resultant grief and depression can be debilitating, and the circumstances of a jarring new reality present an additional challenge that many senior citizens are unable to overcome. The strain of managing a home and meeting financial obligations force many bereaved seniors to seek new living arrangements and an environment in which to begin a new life.
There are many adaptive coping tactics, such as beginning a new hobby or renewing an old acquaintance, but filling the void left by such a profound loss and restoring control over one’s life can be difficult in a home that is suddenly too large, too expensive, and filled with sadness. Moving to an assisted living facility or a senior living community is often the best option for senior citizens who need to heal emotionally and move on in the aftermath of a partner’s death.
Emotional healing is key given the prevalence of loneliness and depression in seniors trying to cope with bereavement. Depression, which can lead to serious health problems, may require some form of cognitive or behavioral therapy. Staying physically and mentally active is important to seniors as they strive to cope with one of the most traumatic events of their lives. To that end, moving into an assisted living community can help counteract the mental and physical problems faced by elderly men and women who may have no one to talk to and nowhere to turn for help.
A grandparent or elderly parent who falls and breaks a hip or an arm clearly needs some form of living assistance, but for seniors who live alone after the death of a spouse, there is an equal need for the social support and vitality that a senior living community can provide.
Studies have shown that social interaction is highly effective in helping seniors avoid “passive, ruminative coping” and a tendency to turn inward, which only prolongs depression. In response, senior living facilities offer therapeutic activities designed to keep senior citizens mentally and physically engaged. These programs often include:
- Art classes and/or art therapy
- Reading with children
- Dog walking
- Water aerobics
- Tai chi
The Role of Technology
Many senior living facilities use technology to help residents sustain memory and improve information processing through advances such as cognitive orthotics, a software-based personal reminder system.
Endogenous factors tied to the aging process leave the elderly especially vulnerable to depression. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 7 million Americans over age 65 experience depression. Major depression affects approximately 30 percent of elderly individuals suffering spousal bereavement. Statistics show that depressed seniors living on their own are apt to repeat behaviors that perpetuate their condition. A change in living environment provides the social, physical, and mental engagement that can help restore a sense of purpose and meaning to older Americans. In particular, those who have lost a spouse need human interaction and personal support networks.
Senior Living Communities Can Help Seniors Overcome Loss
Today, senior living communities are more than warehouses where people live out their final years. They present opportunities for interpersonal interaction, creativity, and personal growth, benefits that are proven effective in helping seniors recover from the devastation of spousal loss.
About the Author: Teresa is the co-creator of MentalHealthForSeniors.com, which is dedicated to providing seniors with information on physical and mental fitness so that they can be active and happy in their golden years.