Check in: Holidays can be lonely for seniors

For many people, the holiday season means reunions with loved ones, but it also can exacerbate feelings of loneliness among those who have experienced loss. Dr. Whitney Carlson, a geriatrics psychiatrist at UW Medicine, suggests being mindful of people who might be alone. 

“I think this particular time of year for seniors is difficult because many seniors live away from their families. They often can't gather, or the people they want to be with aren't here anymore,” Carlson said. “The key is just to take an interest, I think, because most people just feel invisible.” 

Nearly three in 10 U.S. adults over age 60 live alone, a recent study indicates. The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected older adults most severely, with people 65 and over accounting for 75% of all U.S. deaths attributed to the virus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data

Reaching out to seniors who may be isolated is important. 

“I think we can all go along in our little bubbles and our own small social circles, but I think the altruistic thing to do is to care about everybody in the society, and that includes people that need a little help, whether they know it or not,” Carlson said. 

Resources exist for seniors experiencing loneliness, including the nonprofit Sound Generations, which serves older adults in King County. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites about the value of checking in with seniors who might be feeling isolated. 

UW Medicine