The Risks of Social Isolation and Helpful Tips to Avoid It - Senior Services For The South Sound

The Risks of Social Isolation and Helpful Tips to Avoid It

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. There are so many reasons that seniors are isolated.

Senior isolation increases the risk of mortality. Both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults aged 52 and older. Feelings of loneliness can negatively affect both physical and mental health and diminished long-term illnesses. Regardless of the facts of a person’s isolation, seniors who feel lonely and isolated are more likely to report also having poor physical and/or mental health.

Connecting seniors with social resources, such as senior centers and meal delivery programs, is one way to combat subjective feelings of isolation. These same seniors are more likely to need long-term care in their later years. Perceived loneliness contributes to cognitive decline and risk of dementia. Social isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse. Many studies show a connection between social isolation and higher rates of elder abuse. This is because isolated adults are more likely to fall victim to abuse, or a result of abusers attempting to isolate the elders from others to minimize risk of discovery.

LGBT seniors are much more likely to be socially isolated. LGBT seniors are twice as likely to live alone and are more likely to be single, are less likely to have children and are more likely to be estranged from their biological families. Loneliness in seniors is a major risk factor for depression and being pessimistic about their future. Loss of a spouse is a major risk factor for loneliness and isolation. This makes them vulnerable to emotional and social isolation. Ensuring seniors have access to family and friendship support can help alleviate this loneliness. Transportation challenges can lead to social isolation. Seniors who have access to adequate public transportation or other senior transportation services experience less isolation. Lonely people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior.

Volunteering can reduce social isolation and loneliness in seniors. We all know that volunteering is a rewarding activity, and seniors have a unique skill set and oodles of life experience to contribute to their communities. It can also boost longevity and contribute to mental health and well-being, and it ensures that seniors have a source of social connection. Physical activity reduces senior isolation. Group exercise programs are a wonderfully effective way to reduce isolation and loneliness in seniors. Exercising also has an added benefit of being great for physical and mental health. In one study, discussed by Health Quality Ontario, seniors reported greater well-being regardless of whether the activity was aerobic or lower-impact, like stretching.

Senior isolation is neither inevitable nor irreversible. Getting the facts can help us prevent loneliness in our senior loved ones as they face the life changes of aging.

The Care Connection is a registry of Independent Caregivers and Housekeepers. We are dedicated to matching quality Caregivers and Housekeepers with seniors and their families who need assistance in their home or in a facility. If you have questions about in-home care, please call us at 360.586.4491 or email us at Care@southsoundseniors.org. We would love to help or answer any questions you have about in-home care!

Olympia Senior Center
222 Columbia Street NW
Olympia, Washington 98501
Hours: 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
360.586.6181
admintemp@southsoundseniors.org

Lacey Senior Center
6757 Pacific Avenue SE
Lacey, Washington 98503
Hours: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
360.407.3967
laceysc@southsoundseniors.org

Mason County Office
By Appointment Only
360.426.3697

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