Most people will go through at least several periods in their lives where they feel totally bored with life, and that nothing new is ever going to happen to change things. This feeling is usually much more pronounced in the lives of seniors because it’s very easy to slip into a monotonous routine that seldom changes when you’re a senior living at home. Most seniors greatly prefer to remain in their homes, because it’s comfortable and familiar, but it can also easily develop into a situation that leads to endless days of the exact same activities. Since July is National Anti-Boredom Month, it’s worthwhile to consider how boredom can dominate the life of a senior. If you’re a caregiver for a senior loved one, you should take some steps to avoid having your senior fall into this same trap, because it can cause them to lose their spark, their interest in life.
How senior boredom begins
When relatives neglect or decline to visit an elderly loved one, it can cause most days to feel the same, with nothing unusual to break the monotony. If your senior is in assisted living or some other kind of care facility, this can be especially troublesome. They will be obliged to take on the schedule of the facility, with very little to distinguish one day from another. Visits from loved ones can be exciting, welcome events because they make certain days more special. In the 1980s, the University of London conducted an expansive study on the health of public servant workers whose routines were identical from day to day. It was found that those servants who experienced the greatest levels of tedium in their daily duties were three times more likely to die at an early age than others outside that group. This study clearly pointed up the value of injecting some more lively, newer activities into daily routines that previously lacked spontaneity and excitement.
When boredom intensifies
After an initial phase, it becomes very easy for a senior’s life to settle into a cycle where activities are repeated day in and day out, ad infinitum. When a senior spends the majority of the day alone, this is a time when boredom can easily become the order of the day. Even worse, the boredom often morphs into sadness or depression, and that exacerbates the situation. At a late stage of life, many of the friends, relatives, and spouses that a senior once had are more prone to pass on, and this can deepen the state of sadness or depression a senior might be feeling. Any time someone important in the life of a senior dies, that leaves the senior a little more alone in the world, and a little more socially confined. In fact, these are exactly the conditions that sometimes promote suicide among seniors. The highest suicide rate among age groups in this country is the rate for individuals over the age of 85, which is 22.4 per 1,000 individuals. Not surprisingly, the second-highest suicide rate occurs among members of the group immediately below the 85 group, which is the group between 75 and 85, at 19.6 per 1,000. When a senior feels there’s nothing to live for but the same boring routine every day of the week, the unthinkable then becomes somewhat more appealing.
Fighting the effects of boredom
Given the alarming suicide statistics for seniors, it becomes apparent that more needs to be done to combat the feeling of isolation and tedium experienced by many seniors. In nursing care facilities, activities are usually planned for seniors so they can try new things like games, hobbies, special interest groups, and other sanctioned activities. Quite often, classes are provided so that seniors have the opportunity to learn new things and participate in activities they might never have tried before. Art classes are one very popular way that seniors can become involved in a brand new kind of activity, and this can lead to all kinds of new discoveries. Exercise classes are another popular way to provide some excitement and differentiation in the daily lives of seniors. On top of the freshness of exercise classes, it is known that exercise causes the release of ‘feel good’ hormones like endorphins into the bloodstream. This can also combat any feelings of sadness or depression that a senior might have been experiencing. Staying involved in such classes and activities also allows seniors to connect socially, which is another important step in avoiding boredom and social isolation. The more active a senior can be within his/her setting, the more likely it is that boredom will be banished and that the senior will be able to avoid all the negative feelings associated with isolation and boredom.