The recent quarantine due to COVID-19 brought to light the hazards of loneliness. As people get older, they may lose family and friends due to death or distance. In addition, seniors who faced the pandemic alone were subject to various health conditions and issues. Discover some of the reasons why isolation can be dangerous for seniors and what to do to help them feel more connected and less detached from the rest of the world.
What is social isolation?
Social isolation refers to the lack of social connections as people get older. Recent studies revealed many adults over 45 feel lonely, and about 25 percent of those over 65 are socially isolated. In addition, older people face loss of loved ones, hearing loss, chronic illnesses, and living alone, which makes them feel isolated. Loneliness and isolation can be dangerous for seniors in many ways, from being subject to crimes to physical ailments that could be prevented.
Is there a difference between loneliness and isolation?
There are some differences when it comes to loneliness and isolation, and both are detrimental to seniors. Loneliness refers to someone who lives alone with no close relatives or contact with neighbors, who never goes out and spends more than nine hours a day alone. Most lonely people do not have a telephone, and the nearest neighbor is more than 50 yards away. However, isolation means the person wants more friends and does not see enough of the family and friends. Isolated people have no confidant or anyone to ask favors, spend holidays alone, and not meet many people.
Health risks associated with loneliness and isolation
Being alone brings various risks, especially to seniors. While isolation is difficult to measure, many people over 50 are isolated enough to put their health at risk. Isolation increases the risk of premature death, rivaling others such as physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking. Plus, isolation is associated with a nearly 50 percent increased risk of dementia. Poor social relationships can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression, and suicide. In heart failure patients, isolation is associated with dramatically increased risks of death, hospitalization, and emergency room visits.
Seniors with cognitive difficulties
Isolation is profound for seniors with cognitive difficulties who may not correctly see, hear, or communicate with those around them. While the seniors understand everything happening, they cannot wholly process it to interact with others. As a result, they miss out on potential social opportunities. Getting necessary health care and therapies can give seniors the ability and confidence to become more socially interactive and seek out social opportunities. In addition, memory care is another way to keep seniors alert and express themselves clearly. Finally, simple hobbies such as puzzles can help seniors maintain greater mental clarity.
Social opportunities for seniors
Fortunately, social organizations and entities help seniors get together and enjoy more healthy activities. Senior centers exist in most communities, with many offering transportation to meetings and local events. Online and national communities, such as AARP, help older adults gather crucial information, gain access to discounts, and learn about socialization opportunities in the area. Staying connected is critical to maintaining optimum well-being. Some seniors decide to move to communities designed for adults over a specific age to enjoy the companionship of others from their generation that understands their interests, hobbies, and conversation.
The benefits of senior living
As people get older, it helps to live in an area where everything they need is accessible. Many aging adults prefer to stop driving and may rely on public transportation. Others might live in remote areas where little or no social opportunities exist. Either way, a senior community provides for their changing needs. An assisted living community can offer essential peace of mind for those with health conditions. Instead of worrying about getting to a hospital in an emergency, medical staff is available any time of the day or night to assist those in crisis. Additionally, all senior communities provide countless opportunities for socialization. There is always something enjoyable to do, from game nights to holiday dinners, so nobody feels left out and lonely during times that many others are socially active.
Most people experience loneliness and isolation at some time in their lives. When people get older, this increases drastically and can lead to health and emotional problems. Staying connected is imperative for seniors to remain healthy and happy. Find out more about the benefits of senior communities and centers to get older adults together for the enjoyment and connection they need to maintain optimum well-being for years to come.