At some point, almost all seniors will require assistance performing everyday tasks known as activities of daily living. These services range from doing the laundry, washing dishes, grooming, bathing, getting in and out of bed, etc. This newfound loss of independence often creates a sense of uncertainty and fear about what the future holds. If that’s enough, nearly one-fourth of adults ages 65+ are considered socially isolated, as reported by the CDC. When you combine loss of independence with social isolation, it can devastate somebody trying to manage their new way of life. Below, we take a deep dive into social isolation among the elderly and detail methods to help avoid this dangerous phenomenon.
What Causes Social Isolation Among The Elderly
Most seniors do not wake up one day suddenly to find themselves separated from the world. Instead, social isolation a slow process that evolves unexpectedly. So, this begs the question, how does one reach that point?
The three main factors attributed to social isolation among the elderly are the death of family members and friends, limitations on social gatherings, and inability to drive. As we grow older, especially past 75, our peers are more likely to pass away, leaving relationships thinner. Although you cannot replace lifelong friends and family members, it is possible to meet new people to help fill some of the gaps. However, seniors, especially retirees, tend to have greater social limitations than younger generations because they tend to be without a regular network, such as school or the workplace. Also, many seniors have given up their car keys and are dependent on rides from family members and friends. Consequently, they are stuck at home alone.
Health Risks of Social Isolation for Seniors
Engaging in meaningful connections is the fiber that holds humanity together. When we get out of the house and interact with others, even if it is simply chatting with the clerk at the bank, it can make a massive impact on our attitude and mental outlook. Conversely, numerous studies link various health conditions to social isolation, including the following:
- High blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
- Depression and Anxiety
- Weakened Immune System
- Higher chance of infection due to poor personal hygiene
This begs the question, what is it about social isolation that causes the above health conditions? The answer is not straightforward because people experience loneliness differently. Generally, however, the following trends are found among socially isolated seniors:
Poor Habits – social isolation is linked to an increase in poor dietary choices, smoking, and excess drinking.
Mental Health Deterioration – loneliness is correlated with stress and depression.
Unnoticed Ongoing Health Conditions – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cardiac disease, etc., go unnoticed.
Higher Chance of Unreported Abuse – elder abuse is unfortunately not uncommon among both family members and caregivers. When a senior is isolated, there is a higher chance abuse goes unreported.
Things You Can Do To Help Your Elderly Loved One Avoid Isolation
We all want to see our elderly loved ones thrive. To avoid social isolation, make an effort to take them out of the house for a meal or activity. The goal of aging is not to grow older but to practice active aging – to age gracefully. By being proactive about getting your elderly loved one outside and spending quality time with the people they love, you are helping promote active aging to enrich their lives.
But what if your elderly loved ones live in a different state or country? Or, perhaps they live nearby, but you cannot see them as often as you’d like due to external factors such as work. In these circumstances, hiring a home care agency several times per week to perform companion care services helps mitigate loneliness. Additionally, professional caregivers are adept at picking up any signs of additional health conditions that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, thereby catching these conditions early before they get out of hand.
Lastly, many seniors are still not skilled at using the internet. Search online on their behalf for activities and social engagement for their age group. Examples include seniors centers, adult daycare centers, local rec centers, meet-up groups, workout classes, religious services, etc.
Social isolation is a relatively unknown phenomenon amongst most people. We are not trained in school to deal with an aging parent or loved one, but the reality, it is a part of life. It’s essential to pay close attention to both the mental and physical state of your elderly loved at all times, especially if they live alone. At Premier Home Care, Inc., we take pride in helping promote health and wellness to seniors throughout Greater Philadelphia, PA. For a home health care assessment, please get in touch with us today.