A 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows an association between loneliness and mortality, placing what used to be perceived as a relatively benign social problem on a par with smoking in its impact on lifespan, and even worse than obesity in this same regard.
The number of seniors living alone is estimated to be 11 million and growing. While living alone does not in and of itself guarantee social isolation and loneliness, it is most certainly a risk factor.
There are a number of factors that strengthen the prospects of loneliness and/or social isolation. These include:
Professional Intervention – A Care Manager and/or caregiver represent understanding connections that are both purposeful and social. No matter how difficult a senior may be, professional service providers will stay involved and help. If a given client’s isolation stems from problematic behaviors, professionals will respond with insight, expertise and patience. Professional service providers can also furnish transportation to outings, events and appointments.
Faith Communities – Many faith communities have organized activities and volunteer opportunities for seniors. Studies have shown that those involved with faith communities tend to have lower mortality rates, and they clearly benefit from having people around them to help in an emergency and watch for changes in health and behavior.
Technology – Facilitating a senior’s access to a computer and the social avenues it affords can help build bonds with geographically distant family members. Email and other electronic platforms provide a contact point and enable seniors to feel aware of, and included in, family activity.
The best measure to allay loneliness and social isolation is likely prevention. Awareness of the problem and its serious consequences should serve to make us all better and more vigilant family members and neighbors. Checking on lone seniors, inviting them out, and linking them with resources, can forestall the loss of meaningful connection and possibly lengthen and enrich lives.
Senior Centers Reach the Hard to Reach
Social Isolation Among Seniors: An Emerging Issue
Fourteen Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Social Isolation
You are Not Alone: Six Steps to Reduce Senior Isolation
As always, if you have questions or concerns about your health or are looking for resources in the community, contact Kathy Ford RN Parish Nurse/Coordinator Pastoral Care at 630-922-0081 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.BACK TO LIST