As we age, it becomes more and more likely that we may be living with less social interaction than when we were younger. Retiring, friends moving away, and health issues can all factor in to a decreased social agenda. Sometimes, spending less time with friends or family can lead to social isolation, a problem that can take a toll on your overall health. According to government information, older adults who describe themselves as lonely have a 59 percent greater risk for functional decline and a 45 percent greater risk of death.
No matter what age we are, we need social connection to thrive, and by learning about the risks and raising awareness on the issue, we can take steps to maintain and strengthen social ties with friends and family. Joining churches or an exercise group are just a few of the ways for older individuals to get more involved socially, but there are many more options to avoid social isolation.
According to information from the AARP, an estimated one in five adults over the age of 50, at least 8 million people, are affected by isolation, a problem that can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. There are many factors that can put you at greater risk of being affected by social isolation including living alone, sensory impairment, limited financial resources, inadequate social support, and more.
Social isolation is a problem that everyone can suffer from, however, seniors and older adults are more at risk to experience the problem due to the increased likelihood that they’ve had friends or loved ones move or pass away, leaving them to live alone. Similarly, many senior citizens experience travel restrictions like not being able to drive and struggling to use public transportation that can affect their ability to visit with others.
There is a strong link established between social isolation and the development of illnesses and other problems. There are a number of negative health effects associated with isolation and loneliness. Isolation is associated with higher rates and risks of chronic conditions like heart disease, a weakened immune system, depression and anxiety, dementia, and death.
A study done by Psychology and Aging found that there was a direct relationship between loneliness in older adults and increases in blood pressure over a four-year period.
Social isolation and feelings of loneliness can negatively affect both physical and mental health. According to Aging Life Care Journal there is a link between social isolation in an older individual and their health.
“There is strong evidence that many older adults feel isolated, and that loneliness is associated with poor health and higher rates of mortality.”
There are a many ways to overcome social isolation and stay connected with your friends and loved ones, even as you get older. Simple things like inviting people over for coffee or suggesting going to a museum can do a lot to help your mental and physical health and avoid feelings of loneliness. Scheduling a time each day or weekly to call a family member is also a good way to stay connected.
Social interaction also gives you a chance to stay physically fit. Joining a gym or something less demanding like a walking club can help maintain physical health and regulate weight.
There are a number of other ways that you can get involved to help expand your social interactions, including:
- Taking a class
- Revisiting an old hobby and finding
- Look into faith-based organizations
If your loved one is the one suffering from social isolation, it may be a good idea for you to make the first move to help get them back socially active. One of the best ways to help someone would be to stage an intervention-like scenario. There have been studies in the past that show that interventions for older people that targeted social isolation or loneliness have found that both one-on-one sessions and group-interventions can both be successful.
If your loved one is the one dealing with social isolation or loneliness it may be best for you to initiate contact. Scheduling a time when you can visit or call someone each day or weekly can go a long way to help them get out of their shell and improve their overall health.
It should also be noted that caregivers for older individuals are at a higher risk for social isolation. Most know that being a caregiver is a huge responsibility and the job can take a toll on whomever is doing it. The job can be especially difficult for someone with dementia or a physical impairment. It is not uncommon for caregivers to be socially isolated while caring for a loved one or family member. It is important to be aware of this because, as mentioned before, loneliness and social isolation can lead to many health problems.
Social isolation and loneliness can pose serious risks to physical and mental health. Older individuals are especially vulnerable to social isolation for a number of reasons. These feelings of loneliness are unhealthy and can lead to many health problems including heart disease, depression, and even death. For people dealing with these social problems, there are many ways to get back to being socially active. For example, joining and exercise group, volunteering, joining a church, and taking a class are all great ways to meet new people and get back out there.
One of the main reasons that older individuals become socially removed is because many of them live alone. Living along for seniors can prove to be problematic and can cause problems. Besides social isolation, older individuals living alone are more at risk when they experience a fall or get a sickness. With that said, Landmark Senior Living offers our residents the care that they need to keep them safe and healthy. At Landmark, we also give patients access to a number of social activities so that they don’t experience the loneliness that many older individuals may be feeling.