Today, more and more seniors are living alone. The U.S. elderly population is still growing. Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue for many years to come. People are living longer so it is important to avoid senior isolation, which can have devastating effects on the health of our elderly population. Many seniors also require in-home care.
When we are young, it is easier to be alone and it is exciting to take on life’s challenges. We don’t often think of the prospects of being alone when we move into our senior years. The fact is, being lonely and isolated can have some adverse consequences on our health as we grow older.
Stats on Senior Isolation
As people get older, the likelihood of living alone increases. While some may have adult children close by, or even are taken in by them, there are many people who live far away from their children. Also, there are many people who never had kids.
The last U.S. Census Bureau report that took place in 2010, showed that over 11 million seniors lived alone. Just because an elderly person lives alone or doesn’t have family nearby, does not mean that they will automatically suffer from isolation and loneliness. It has to do with how much they socialize with other people.
Social contacts decrease as we get older due to many different reasons. We lose contact with old friends, friends and family move to different locations and we lose friends and family due to death. Elderly adults also tend to get less mobile as their health starts to deteriorate.
Causes and Effects for Senior Isolation
There are many different causes and warning signs for isolation and most all of them can be prevented.
- Loneliness and isolation can increase the risk of death – An elderly person will neglect to take signs of declining health seriously. It can affect both physical and mental health.
- Increased risk of mental decline and dementia – Feelings of loneliness are linked to quicker cognitive decline.
- Elder abuse – Social isolation tends to make elderly adults more vulnerable to elder abuse.
- Long term illness – Loneliness and isolation with seniors is linked to long term illnesses such as lung disease, arthritis, impaired mobility and depression. For seniors who live alone, phone calls and visits are a critical part of connecting. In-home care can address these needs if no family members live nearby.
- Loss of a spouse – Besides the shock of losing a spouse, the loss of a partner can mean the loss of social interaction that they had as being a couple.
- Transportation challenges – A part of growing old and losing physical as well as cognitive abilities, is the loss of being able to operate a vehicle. This means that getting to and from social activities can be difficult without the help of others.
- Unhealthy behavior – People that are socially isolated are more likely to have poor health behaviors such as poor diet, little or no physical activity, smoking and alcohol.
Combating Loneliness and Isolation
There are a number of activities that can decrease the risk of senior isolation.
- Volunteer – Volunteering can offer a bevy of benefits. Seniors have a lot to offer to society. They have life experience and all kinds of unique talents. It can be very rewarding to contribute to the community in which they live.
- Classes – Taking a class on a favorite subject is a great way to enrich anyone’s life.
- Physical activity
- Local senior center
Fortunately there are options out there that can help you and your aging parents. Golden Heart Senior Care Southern Utah in St. George provides compassionate in-home care. We can offer your loved one a variety of services: companionship, light housekeeping, meal prep and planing, transportation to and from social activities and more. Visit our website www.goldenheartsouthernutah.com or call (435) 669-3704. You’re in Good Hands with Golden Heart!
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