What is social isolation/loneliness in seniors?
Feeling lonely and socially isolated are amongst the most significant issues plaguing seniors today. Seniors find themselves living alone and spending days without talking to a single soul. The emotional pain experienced by adults living alone is eerily similar to physical pain.
Humans are social beings who require social connections to survive and thrive. Sadly, isolation over time can deteriorate health and overall well-being. Studies show a rise in clinical depression, cognitive decline, and heart-related illnesses amongst seniors experiencing loneliness and living alone.
Adults in isolation are more likely to experience a severe decline in their mental and physical health, resulting in a higher percentage of long-term hospitalization. Common illnesses include heart disease, dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, compromised immunity, obesity, anxiety, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and death.
What are the health concerns amongst seniors who experience social isolation and loneliness?
As people age, the risk of isolation increases due to several unforeseen circumstances and the natural process of aging, which include,
- Living alone
- Commuting challenges
- Life-changing loss (loss of a loved one, career, or bodily function)
- Lack of sufficient capital
- Psychological challenges and decline
- Social barriers (language, discrimination, racism, ageism, etc.)
- Lack of support from friends and family
- Lack of recreational activities and support
How can we decrease loneliness/social isolation in seniors?
- Staying connected with family & friends is key to decreasing loneliness and social isolation amongst seniors. A clever way to keep our loved ones connected is by introducing and teaching our older adults how to navigate technology. For many, weekly visits may not be plausible, but daily check-ins can with the power of social. Thankfully social media bridges physical and figurative gaps that stand between people. People can now freely see and speak to one another on various free platforms like Instagram, google meets, zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc.
- Nursing services for senior patients help eliminate loneliness and isolation by maintaining necessary social interactions and illness management. At Destiny Care Health Services, our nurses are people-focused and care deeply for the patients they serve. Our mantra is to treat every patient as part of the family.
- Creating self-care plans and rituals in Seniors can help reduce the effects of loneliness and social isolation by assisting them to focus on things that make them internally happy. The first step is encouraging our loved ones to pick up hobbies and habits that support their happiness. Next, we introduce safe and fun ways of staying active. Lastly, we make sure that we present healthy, clean, and inviting food. These little tips can significantly improve moods and overall wellness.
- Seniors can benefit from Mental health check-ins; it would be an opportunity to candidly speak on all aspects of life. Due to stigmatization, many seniors did not have a fair chance to explore their mental health. A mental health check-in would allow them to express themselves, address traumas and heal.
- Animal companions help produce hormones linked to happiness and overall good feelings, lowering the risk of heart-related illnesses. This solution is twofold because animal shelters always need homes for their furry pals, especially those of advanced age.
NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). “Loneliness and Social Isolation — Tips for Staying Connected.” National institute on aging, Jan 14 2021, https://www.nia.nih.gov/