Here at Proactive Seniors we love to share information, whenever and in any way that we can! This blog is one way for us to pass along valuable research and insights by others, and that is why you will sometimes see guest posts such as this one. We are grateful to Andrea Gibbs for writing the post below and encouraging us to share it with you.
Guest Post by Andrea Gibbs, Serenity Senior Care
Many seniors experience feelings of loneliness and social isolation as they age. It is usually due to living alone, low income, or no children in the home. Various research suggests that loneliness can lead to cognitive decline, poor physical health, and premature mortality.
The absence of social contact is not just a problem for the elderly; it also has severe effects on people they have been with, including family members.
The Difference Between Loneliness and Social Isolation
Social isolation is the state of not being connected to others socially and not having anyone you can talk to. It is different from loneliness, which means that you feel alone and have nobody to spend time with.
Older adults are at a greater risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation than any other age group. It is primarily due to decreasing physical activity, losing friends or family members, retirement, and health problems. Especially for an older adult living alone, it can be easy to fall into the habit of staying at home and no social interaction. Social isolation and loneliness can be massive stress for seniors since it often leads to low moods or depression. It can also lead them to “giving up” or feeling like they are not worth anyone’s time and attention.
What Causes Social Isolation and Loneliness?
Seniors can experience loneliness and isolation because of a variety of different causes. Some common causes are dementia, physical health problems, mental health problems, and the caregiver cannot stay involved in the person’s life due to work or other reasons.
Cognitive changes can also lead to seniors having difficulty socializing or maintaining relationships with others. These are the changes in memory, thinking, and decrease in attention span.
Social isolation and loneliness are also due to change in one’s social environment. An example of this would be a senior living alone after the death of their spouse. Having fewer people available to talk with can put stress on the individual.
As mentioned previously, seniors are at risk of experiencing loneliness because they may have less social support and cannot participate in activities or meet new people as often as previous generations did. Seniors are also at risk because they may not have the same opportunities to socialize as when they were younger.
How loneliness and social isolation affect senior’s health?
Social isolation and loneliness can have severe impacts on someone’s health. Not only does it make them feel unhappy, but it also hinders their mental and physical health.
Social isolation and loneliness can lead to low moods, anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, shame or embarrassment, anger or hostility, and the loss of interest in life. All of these feelings can lead to seniors experiencing other problems in their life that may affect their quality of life.
Loneliness connects to more inferior cognitive function and a decline in memory ability. Some research suggests that loneliness can even lead to mental breakdowns and worsen the symptoms of dementia.
Loneliness also causes more lousy health behaviors, such as skipping medical check-ups and not eating correctly. It then leads to other problems with their physical health, such as weight gain or a decrease in physical activity.
Finally, loneliness shows to increase one’s risk of early death by 26%. It is more than three times the risk than someone who does not experience loneliness.
How to Help Seniors fight loneliness and social isolation?
Dealing with loneliness and social isolation is a necessary step for seniors to combat stress. You can help your elderly loved one ease the feeling of loneliness and Social Isolation using these seven tips.
These are the 7 Tips to Ease the Stress of Loneliness and Social Isolation among Seniors
1. Increase positive social interactions.
Seniors should choose to increase positive social interactions with their family and friends by volunteering, going out to eat, attending church or community events, or even just visiting their friends’ homes. Seniors should be sure that participating in these activities will bring them closer to others rather than making them feel isolated.
2. Establish and maintain a routine (sleep schedule).
Seniors who establish and maintain a daily routine are at lower risk of feeling lonely or socially isolated. A daily routine should include:
- Sleeping at the same time every night.
- Rising around the same time every morning.
- Taking a shower daily
- Eating regular meals.
- Maintaining established social activities.
3. Participate in exercise.
Exercise is another way to increase social interaction. Seniors can choose to meet up with others for a morning walk or join a sports team or club. Seniors should exercise with others instead of doing it alone, whenever possible.
4. Continue to stay in the community.
Seniors who continue to stay in the community are less likely to feel lonely or socially isolated. It is true even if they have other issues with loneliness or social isolation. Seniors should make an effort to see their doctor, pay a visit with their friends and family, go out for meals, go shopping, and attend church.
5. Increase positive self-talk (and affirmations).
Seniors who increase their positive self-talk can combat loneliness and social isolation. They should make an effort to think positively about themselves and their situation and be careful to avoid negative self-talk such as “I am not good enough.”
6. Stay away from alcohol and drugs.
Seniors should avoid alcohol and drug use because these substances may increase feelings of loneliness or social isolation. Alcohol, in particular, is a depressant that can lead to feelings of depression or sadness, which are signs of loneliness or isolation.
7. Increase positive social support (and decline help from others).
Seniors should make an effort to reduce their reliance on others. The most critical time for seniors to do this is when they feel lonely or socially isolated because these feelings can lead to easy access to help from others in a time of need.
As we age, we can become more and more isolated and socially unengaged. It can lead to a more stressful lifestyle among older adults. Seniors who are lonely and socially isolated are at risk for a variety of health problems. By following the seven tips listed above, seniors may combat loneliness and social isolation to reduce their risk of these health problems.
Proactive Seniors are here for you! If you would like to chat about our services, please visit our website: www.proactiveseniors.ca or call us on 403 809 1971.