The original article, by Sarah Stevenson, was posted on May 5, 2017, Senior Living Blog at aPlaceForMom.com. To read the entire article click here.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to serious consequences for senior health. Understanding the causes and risk factors for senior isolation can help us prevent it.
Statistics on Senior Isolation
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 11 million, or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone at the time of the census. As people get older, their likelihood of living alone only increases. Additionally, more and more older adults do not have children, reports the AARP, and that means fewer family members to provide company and care as those adults become seniors. While living alone does not inevitably lead to social isolation, it is certainly a predisposing factor. Yet another important consideration is how often seniors engage in social activities.
Statistics Canada reports that 80% of Canadian seniors participate in one or more social activities on a frequent basis (at least monthly) – but that leaves fully one-fifth of seniors not participating in weekly or even monthly activities.
Social contacts tend to decrease as we age for a variety of reasons, including retirement, the death of friends and family, or lack of mobility. Regardless of the causes of senior isolation, the consequences can be alarming and even harmful. Even perceived social isolation – the feeling that you are lonely – is a struggle for many older people. Fortunately, the past couple of decades have seen increasing research into the risks, causes, and prevention of loneliness in seniors.
Here are 20 facts about senior isolation to help you stay informed:
1. Senior isolation increases the risk of mortality.
2. Feelings of loneliness can negatively affect both physical and mental health.
3. Perceived loneliness contributes to cognitive decline and risk of dementia.
4. Social isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse.
5. LGBT seniors are much more likely to be socially isolated.
6. Social isolation in seniors is linked to long-term illness.
7. Loneliness in seniors is a major risk factor for depression.
8. Loneliness causes high blood pressure.
9. Socially isolated seniors are more pessimistic about the future.
10. Physical and geographic isolation often leads to social isolation.
11. Isolated seniors are more likely to need long-term care.
12. Loss of a spouse is a major risk factor for loneliness and isolation.
13. Transportation challenges can lead to social isolation.
14. Caregivers of the elderly are also at risk for social isolation.
15. Loneliness can be contagious.
16. Lonely people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior.
17. Volunteering can reduce social isolation and loneliness in seniors.
18. Feeling isolated? Take a class.
19. Technology can help senior isolation – but not always.
20. Physical activity reduces senior isolation.
Remember, understanding the causes and risk factors for senior isolation can help us prevent it. If you or someone you know are feeling depressed, please visit the Happy Camp Community Center. We contract with Siskiyou County Behavioral Health and can refer you to their services. We located at 38 Park Way in Happy Camp and are open Tuesday-Thursday, 9am to 4pm.
Happy Camp Community Action, Inc. is a Non-profit organization dedicated to economic development and youth programs in Happy Camp, California and surrounding communities.