Senior citizens struggling to shake loneliness caused by pandemic
Thousands of senior citizens in the Netherlands are struggling to get back into their daily routine after the coronavirus pandemic and are, therefore, still struggling with the loneliness caused by the pandemic. Over 400,000 of the more than 1.4 million Netherlands residents aged 75 or older feel "very lonely," Trouw reports based on research by Amsterdam UMC and GGZ Centraal.
"We now have a group of lonely elderly people who were not lonely before the pandemic. They were not visible in the mental healthcare system and were therefore not considered psychologically vulnerable," researcher Almar Kok of Amsterdam UMC said to the newspaper.
According to Didi Rhebergen, a researcher at GGZ Centraal and geriatric psychiatrist, persistent loneliness can have significant consequences. "Loneliness can lead to depression and anxiety. It also causes sleeping problems, cardiovascular disease, memory problems, and death. The damage to health, as calculated in 2010, can be compared with smoking 15 cigarettes a day."
The researchers didn't look into why this group of elderly people can't seem to pick up their old life again. But Rhebergen thinks it has to do with their time of life."At a certain point, young people had to return to school or lectures, which pulled them out of their isolation. Then there were parties and festivals on top of that. Of course, this does not apply to the elderly who lost their swimming or exercise hour or their card evening during the coronavirus time. I notice that it is difficult for clients to pick up their old rhythm again. Saying it's important isn't enough. You really have to take them by the hand."
The social brain also plays a role, Rhebergen added. "For that, the following applies: use it or lose it. Those who are socially active remain socially active. If you lose it and become lonely, for example, due to a death of a loved one, motivation drops, and goal-orientated behavior decreases. This raises the threshold for doing things yourself."
Rhebergen and Kok called on the government and society to pay more attention to this group of newly lonely people. And stop cutting budgets for community centers and sports and exercise activities, which are especially important for the elderly.