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Nearly one-third of all seniors live by themselves, according to the U. Census Bureau. Since Marchthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged older adults — a group at highest risk for severe illness with COVID — to stay home with few, if any, visitors. These restrictions have helped to protect seniors throughout the pandemic, but also limited interaction with friends and family, leading to a stark increase in reported isolation. This isolation can lead to depression, weight loss, cognitive decline, and other medical complications, research suggests.
Learn the major mental and physical effects of loneliness, and how senior isolation has been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Get tips on how to connect with and support seniors who are lonely or living alone. Loneliness can be as deadly as smoking or obesity, according to a Brigham Young University study. Senior isolation may complicate existing conditions, encourage an unhealthy lifestyle, and affect cognition.
Family caregivers agree social distancing and the stress of the pandemic have affected their aging loved ones. Sixty-two percent of adult children caring for their parents or elderly relatives say their loved one has suffered physically or mentally from isolation during the pandemic, according to a December survey from A Place for Mom. Some groups particularly affected by pandemic isolation include:. Before the pandemic, many seniors living alone maintained active social lives, regularly visiting community centers and friends.
Additionally, routine interactions like checking out at the grocery store or chatting with the mail carrier offered much-needed socialization. Even 15 minutes of interaction a day — in person or virtual — can mitigate the effects of loneliness on seniors, according to the Administration on Aging AoA. Reaching out makes a difference. If you have aging relatives, call them, and encourage your family to do the same. If you run out of conversation topics, try asking these 20 questions seniors never get tired of hearing.
Volunteering decreases loneliness. The more volunteer associations to which a senior belongs, the lower their collective loneliness, according to the Administration on Community Living. Volunteering gives seniors a sense of purpose, and it allows them to engage in personal interests. The good news is that volunteering is possible even without social contact: Intergenerational programs allow seniors to help young children with reading over the phone or via pen pal letters, for example. Technology solutions address loneliness. From Zoom video chats to innovative products deed especially for seniorstechnology can bridge gaps between socially distant friends and family.
Look into easy-to-use phones and tablets that offer additional features, such as brain games and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri. However, too much screen time Lonely missing Independence are you 50 75 lead to fatigue and eye strain, so consider alternating between technology and good, old-fashioned phone calls. Other ways friends and families can use technology to connect include:.
Exercise feels good physically and emotionally. Brisk movement helps ward off anxiety and depression in addition to offering physical health benefits. If you live in a neighborhood with socially isolated seniors, suggest taking a short walk together or spending time outside. During this time of social distancing, remember to wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart. Learning and exploring reduces cognitive decline. There are hundreds of online resources for seniors who want to learn from home.
Senior living prevents loneliness in seniors. Older adults are less likely to feel lonely when they have the opportunity to spend time with friends and peers. A senior living community counters many of the reasons for social isolation described above: Without having to worry about transportation, entertainment, or family dynamics, seniors have more time to live a life they enjoy.
Even when social distancing restrictions lift, many seniors will struggle with isolation. Our advisors helpfamilies each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
Administration on Aging. National Institute on Aging. University of Chicago. Rush University Medical Center. Brigham Young University.
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How Our Service Works. Our Company. By Claire Samuels January 7, Share this article:. The health dangers of senior isolation and loneliness Loneliness can be as deadly as smoking or obesity, according to a Brigham Young University study. Loneliness le to stress. Unhealthy habits increase during isolation. Social isolation often le to bad health habits, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Lonely seniors are more likely to smoke, drink in excess, and neglect the need for physical activity. Conversely, social support can encourage seniors to eat well, exercise, and live healthy lifestyles.
Loneliness is a risk factor for cognitive decline, according to a study conducted by the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging. This could be because isolated older people have less stimulation, or because their symptoms are less likely to be reported before the disease has progressed, suggested the study. Isolation le to higher instances of elder abuse. There are several reasons for this correlation, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
Isolated seniors are more likely to fall prey to scammers and financial abuse. Neglect, one of the seven types of elder abuse, is more likely to go unnoticed. Lonely seniors assume the worst. Talk with a Senior Living Advisor Our advisors helpfamilies each year find the right senior care for their loved ones. Connect Now. Claire Samuels. Related Articles. Aging Well in Independent Living. By Kim Acosta 8 min read. By Claire Samuels 12 min read. By Claire Samuels 17 min read.
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Loneliness in Older Persons: A predictor of functional decline and death