What You Need to Know About Social and Emotional Changes in Old Age

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Elderly man looking out at people outside his door

Everyone has basic emotional needs, but do you know the list of emotional needs your elderly family members require? What are the emotional needs of the elderly? Most people think of the physical changes and disabilities associated with aging, but emotional changes in old age are common.

Aging can be a very frustrating process in general, but older adults have unique social, psychological, and emotional needs that evolve.

Often, aging is not a slow and steady decline. Some adults may experience an accident or a sudden diagnosis that immediately impacts their day-to-day lives. A once healthy, thriving individual could become bedridden, resulting in a deep depressive state. 

The psychological, physical, emotional, and social needs of older adults should all be taken into consideration for the best possible care.

In this article, we explore the psychological and social needs of elderly adults, the 3 emotional needs of the elderly, and how you can support them personally and professionally at home.

What Are the Social Needs of Elderly Adults?

Studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness result in serious health conditions in older adults. Here are two social needs of the elderly that can counteract and even prevent isolation and loneliness.

1. Meaningful Relationships

Older adults require meaningful relationships and experiences. Most people tend to have casual acquaintances in their younger years, but with age comes depth in relationships. Older adults don’t want your pity; they want intentionality. They want to know that you genuinely care about them, not just curbing a personal sense of guilt.

Companion care can be an all-embracing resource for older adults who need a professional carer and a friend. At its core, caregiving is a relational commitment to care for others. A meaningful relationship is cultivated between caregivers and older adults through dedicated, personal care.

2. Regular Social Interactions

Cognitive decline may cause unintentional social withdrawal. However, social interactions can play a positive role in counteracting cognitive decline. During COVID-19, social interactions are even more limited than before for older adults. 

At the very least, call your aging family members to check-in. Here’s are a few ideas to get the conversation going:

  • Ask them for a recap of their day.
  • Ask them how they’re feeling (mentally, emotionally, etc).
  • Ask them if they’ve invested time into a new or existing hobby.
  • Ask about their childhood and what life was like back then to workout their memory muscles.

In general, ask open-ended questions to prompt a long response. The best thing you can do in a conversation with an older adult is listen. They want to know that their thoughts and input are valuable to you.

What Are the Psychological Needs of the Elderly?

Mental health issues among older adults are widespread. More than 2 million Americans aged 65 and older live with some form of depression. Although depression is more common in younger adults, the onset of depression in older adults can result from a chronic illness diagnosis, bereavement, and loss of social contact.

Research suggests that late-life depression and Alzheimer’s disease may correlate. As the family member of an older adult, provide mental stimulation when you can:

  • Play memory games.
  • Offer a space for them to express their genuine thoughts and feelings.
  • Give elderly parents a scrapbook and ask if they can recall positive memories.

Even if it’s over the phone, ask aging loved ones to repeat something they just said or reminisce about past experiences to help strengthen cognitive function.

What Are the Emotional Needs of the Elderly?

As you can imagine, emotional changes in the elderly are a mixed bag of highs and lows. Some older adults report feeling happier daily compared to younger adults, while others experience geriatric depression.

Studies have shown that older women who report low levels of emotional support are twice as likely to die as those with high levels of emotional support. Sometimes we can take emotional support for granted when we have a large community around us. 

However, your aging parent most likely doesn’t have a large community providing them with significant emotional support. Affirm the value of your aging loved one every chance you get, and do your best to empathize with them. 

To answer the question, “what are the emotional needs of the elderly?” let’s look at the top 3 emotional needs of the elderly to keep in mind.

3 Emotional Needs of the Elderly

As your parents age, they may feel useless, lonely, angry, or even in denial about their wellness and capabilities. Living alone may further exacerbate negative feelings. Here are 3 emotional needs of the elderly loved ones in your life:

Safety & Security

Did you know that older adults fear falling more than robbery, financial stress, or health issues? Providing a safe, secure environment for older adults is crucial to their wellbeing. Regularly assess your aging parent’s home for fall risks such as clutter. Check if they’re locking their doors at night or install a home security system to ensure their safety.

Connection

People need connection, no matter their age. Feeling disconnected emotionally and physically from people can be detrimental to one’s health. Due to COVID-19, 56% of older adults reported feeling isolated with infrequent social interaction. Use technology to connect with aging family members near and far.

Autonomy

Seniors have been independent adults their whole lives. Growing old and relying on others can be a tough transition for them. In-home caregivers are a great option for older adults who want to retain independence but need regular care. An in-home caregiver fulfills the emotional needs of elderly people and physical needs, such as meal preparation, bathing, dressing, etc.

In-home Care for Mom and Dad

The social and emotional development in old age can be difficult for family members to understand, let alone manage. As the adult child of an elderly parent, you don’t have to go at it alone

You don’t need to step into yet another role in the midst of a busy life. We’re here to serve you. Stowell Associates is a premium home care agency that exists to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families.

Leave the caregiving up to us, so you can remain the son or daughter of your aging parent. Our expert care managers help you make the right long-term care decisions. Contact the Stowell Associates Care Team today for more information on in-home care.

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