How to Handle Empty Nest Syndrome as an Aging Adult or Senior 

Most people think of empty nest syndrome as something that occurs when college-aged children move out of their parents’ house for the first time. However, this condition can affect adults at any stage of their life. For instance, if you are a senior who is entering retirement or living alone after losing a spouse, you too can suffer from empty nest syndrome. Find out the facts about this condition to learn if you are dealing with empty nest syndrome, along with ways you can treat this condition.

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

In the simplest of terms, empty nest syndrome is grief and loneliness caused when someone moves out of your home. This can occur when a child leaves their parent’s household, or a spouse loses their partner to death or divorce. It can also take place when seniors enter retirement. This type of empty nest syndrome is the result of a change in one’s everyday environment. They are feeling a void caused when they are no longer spending most of their time in a workplace where they have social connections with coworkers and a daily routine.

What Types of Situations Lead to Empty Nest Syndrome in Men and Women?

Women who are going through menopause can also experience empty nest syndrome. In this circumstance, she may be under emotional stress associated with hormonal and physical changes. In a sense, a woman may feel as if part of their life, the part where they are able to have children, is over. As a result, they can struggle with empty nest syndrome through this emotional loss. Senior men who are going through what is referred to as a midlife crisis can also have empty nest syndrome. As with menopausal women, men at this stage have a change in hormones including a decrease in testosterone. They may be unable to perform or be as active as they once were, which causes them to lose interest in activities or break apart from social groups. As such, these men can suffer from loneliness and grief of empty nest syndrome. Seniors who are moving to senior housing, such as an active senior apartment, assisted living facility, nursing home, or cooperative senior apartment, can also develop empty nest syndrome. In most cases, a senior citizen is experiencing a change of living environment and losing their community of neighbors and locals. This sudden loss can leave a void filled with loneliness, which can lead to depression.

How Many People Have Empty Nest Syndrome?

The baby boomer generation is the current demographic of seniors, and it is the largest group of retirement age individuals in history. Here are some statistics about baby boomers as they enter retirement according to the Pew Research Center:
  • From 2011 to 2021, 10,000 baby boomers reached 65 years of age, which is the standard retirement age.
  • Twenty-six percent of the US population are baby boomers.
  • In 2030 when all baby boomers are at 65 years old, this will mean that 18 percent of the US population are retirees.
This large group of US seniors is going to be susceptible to empty nest syndrome at some point in their retirement years—if they have not struggled with the condition already. Being aware of the symptoms and treatments for empty nest syndrome for men and women is critical to helping the aging population. However, there is another interesting social change occurring. For the first time ever, young adults are returning back to the nest. According to Pew Research, millennials ages 25 to 35 are twice as likely to move back home than adults in the 1960s or 1980s. A substantial 15 percent of millennials in 2016 lived with their parents. Part of this is a result of the Great Recession, but it also reflects a change in social expectations of the millennial generation. At the same time, parents and seniors are permitting their adult children to live with them. This can help seniors and older adults cover housing expenses, handle daily tasks, and encourage social interaction. For seniors who are struggling with paying for senior living, this can be a welcoming alternative to nursing home or senior apartment life. It can also reduce the amount of empty nest syndrome experienced in the baby boomer population.

What are Common Signs and Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty nest syndrome is not a mental health disorder. Therefore, you cannot receive a clinical diagnosis for this condition. That does not mean empty nest syndrome is not a real condition that can be diagnosed by a therapist, social worker, or caregiver. Symptoms of empty nest syndrome to look for include:
  • Being more sad than usual after a life-changing event, particularly one involving a change in living arrangements
  • Feeling distressed or easily aggravated
  • Crying easily
  • Experiencing depression
  • Suffering a loss of one’s meaning in life
  • Avoidance of social interaction or activities that were once enjoyable
  • Change in weight, either excessive weight loss or weight gain
If you are experiencing these symptoms in association with a change in your household, then continue reading to learn how to treat empty nest syndrome.

What are Effective Treatment and Coping Methods for Dealing with Empty Nest Syndrome?

Once you understand that you are suffering from empty nest syndrome, it puts a name on your feelings. This is a huge help in overcoming this condition. From there you will want to build up your social network. This helps you replace those social connections you lost, which lead to the condition. If you are an active senior, pick up old hobbies or start new activities, such as going to a senior center, joining a community book club, or volunteering with a local organization. If you are struggling with health issues that prevent you from being active, seek professional help through therapy or counseling. These experts can provide you with resources, such as reading materials or online support groups, that can benefit you. In addition, if you have become depressed due to empty nest syndrome, it might be a good time to consider prescription medication and therapy to overcome the depression.