For quite some time now, loneliness and isolation have been growing issues among aging members of our population. This has become even more of a reality since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation has essentially become the norm for everyone with business shutdowns, travel restrictions, and shelter-in-place mandates keeping so many of us from interacting the way we once did. That’s creating even more issues for seniors who were already facing the many potential dangers of limited social interaction.
Understanding Why Seniors Are More in Danger of Isolation
Before delving into the risks of isolation and loneliness for seniors, it’s essential to understand why they’re more at risk than younger members of the population. For one, they’re more likely to live alone because their children have grown up, moved out, and started families of their own. At the same time, their spouses are more likely to have passed on or succumbed to the many mental and physical hardships of aging. Those who aren’t part of an independent living community simply have few people to interact with.
Additionally, seniors are less likely to get out and about than other people. Some don’t drive. Others aren’t physically able to take on outings like grocery shopping, visiting friends and relatives, and going to social gatherings. Quite a few seniors aren’t well versed in the use of technology to help ward off isolation and loneliness, too. That means they can’t take advantage of all the communication options available these days. This certainly isn’t true for all seniors. Some are just as proficient in the use of social media, video chats, and other solutions as their children and grandchildren. For many, though, technology is a definitive roadblock.
Assessing the Possible Risks of Isolation for Seniors
All that brings us to the possible risks of isolation and loneliness for seniors. One of the most obvious dangers is an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression. People who are lonely and socially isolated are more likely to suffer from those conditions than those who routinely interact with others and participate in social activities. That’s only part of the picture, though.
Loneliness and isolation also greatly increase the risk of developing a range of physical health problems for seniors. Those who live alone and have little interaction with the outside world are more likely to pass away prematurely. This can come from numerous issues, including the greater likelihood of engaging in harmful behaviors, such as overeating, smoking, and drinking. That ramps up their chances of developing serious health issues as a result of those habits. These dangers are further exacerbated due to the associated reduction of physical activity.
Studies show that isolated seniors are likewise in greater danger of developing dementia. In fact, lonely and isolated seniors are 64 percent more likely to suffer from dementia than those who have active social lives. Experts believe this is due to several factors, such as declining cognitive activity, poor diet, reduced physical activity, and the higher risks of depression and substance abuse.
Reducing the Risks for Seniors
Being physically present with aging loved ones isn’t always possible. Hectic schedules and the previously mentioned pandemic-related restrictions can certainly make visiting elderly friends and family members more difficult. Still, there are ways to help ward off loneliness, isolation, and all their associated dangers. Consider equipping senior loved ones with smartphones, tablets, and other devices and showing them how to use them, so they’ll have ways of contacting friends and family members even if the interaction isn’t actually in person.
If at all feasible, try to set aside time to physically visit elderly loved ones. Use sick days or vacation time to check in on them in person from time to time. Get other family members involved as well. Finding the time to pay social calls may be difficult, but with a little time and effort, it may not be entirely impossible. Considering alternate Senior living options for those who currently live alone could also be an effective solution. Assisted living communities and other options are more accessible today than ever before.
Keeping Seniors Safe and Happy
Palm Vista is a prominent independent living community located in Palm Vista, California. We’re dedicated to providing the assisted living, memory care, and other solutions seniors need to remain safe and healthy. We’re also committed to ensuring no one in our community has to suffer from loneliness and isolation and their potential negative effects. With numerous outings, social events, and other amenities available for our residents, we offer a range of opportunities for getting out and about and interacting with others.