Aging Seniors: Loneliness and Social Isolation
Loneliness is a key concern among aging seniors.
According to a national survey commissioned by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), thirty-five percent of the 3,000 respondents age 45 + were categorized as “lonely.” Individuals categorized as “lonely” were more likely to withdraw from social activities including volunteering, becoming active in community organizations, and attending religious services. Avoiding these types of activities can contribute to social isolation and loneliness. Furthermore, the survey highlights loneliness as a key predictor of poor health.
Are you wondering how an aging loved one may be affected by loneliness?
Here are a few questions and answers to help you better understand.
Question: My loved one lives alone. Should I assume he is socially isolated or lonely?
Answer: Living alone does not mean an individual is socially isolated or lonely. In fact, many aging seniors live alone and are very happy. Many seniors live in complexes where they can easily engage in social activities. The bottom line is that some people may require limited social interaction while others may need to socialize multiple times daily. Talk to your loved one to find out how they feel.
Question: My aging uncle seems to be socially isolated. I understand it may affect his psyche, but I’m not overly concerned since he is in good health overall. Should I intervene?
Answer: Feeling lonely and socially isolated is a delicate subject. But if a family member or close friend is able to communicate that he feels lonely or isolated, he or she could probably use help. The effects of social isolation are not constrained to mental health, but can actually affect physical health and overall wellbeing. It’s time to help your uncle make the changes he needs to bring relevant social connections to his life. Talk to his medical care team to find out which steps to take.
Question: What can I do to help a loved one who is homebound?
Answer: Phone calls, video calls, and visits to a loved one’s home can be a great way to help someone socialize at home. Assisted living facilities allow aging seniors to be in close proximity to others, and have daily opportunities to socialize. A home health care nurse can provide companionship while providing personalized care and managing home duties and tasks.
Question: Why is loneliness so serious?
Answer: Not only can loneliness lead to depression and mental health problems, but it is also linked to high blood pressure, inflammation, heart disease, vascular disease, impaired immune system, dementia, and early death. In fact, many researchers believe that social isolation and loneliness should be included as a major risk factor, similar to substance abuse or obesity.
Loneliness and social isolation are serious issues.
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