The Dangers of Senior Isolation
There’s no question that humans are social creatures and that today’s technological advances have made it easier than ever to connect with each other. A couple of taps on a smartphone and you can see the face of a loved one on the other side of the world. A quick email or text elicits an immediate response. We may be more connected, but studies show we lonelier than ever. Learn more about chronic loneliness in Canada and how it negatively affects the health of seniors.
CHRONIC FEELINGS OF LONELINESS ON THE RISE
John Cacioppo, the director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (W. W. Norton & Co., 2009) defines loneliness as the “perceived social isolation, or the discrepancy between what you want from your social relationships and your perception of those relationships.”
Chronic feelings of loneliness in Canada are on the rise. Studies completed in the 1970s and 1980s showed that 11% to 20% of Canadians reported feelings of chronic loneliness. Those numbers skyrocketed to 40% – 45% in 2010. And, a more recent study of older adults found that 43% of Canada’s seniors reported feeling chronic feelings of loneliness.
THE HIDDEN RISKS OF LONELINESS AND ISOLATION
The effects of loneliness and isolation are more harmful than you may think. They go beyond feelings of sadness and can lead to a real physical threat:
A study published in Perspective in Psychological Science found that feelings of loneliness can increase the risks of death by 26%.
Social isolation and living alone were found to increase a person’s mortality rate by 29% and 32%, respectively.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can accelerate cognitive decline and result in poor cognitive ability.
Social isolation can increase the risk of a senior being the victim of elder abuse.
Loneliness is a major risk factor for depression and can increase symptoms of depression.
There is a direct relationship between loneliness and high blood pressure.
Loneliness has been linked to an increased likelihood in participating in risky behaviors including poor diet choices, smoking, and lack of exercise.
Social isolation can put seniors at risk for improper medication management. 43% of socially isolated seniors reported little or no support from family and friends in managing their health.
HOW TO OVERCOME ISOLATION
The good news is that social isolation among seniors is largely avoidable. These tips can help seniors feel more engaged in the world around them and help them overcome feelings of loneliness.
Finding an exercise buddy or a caregiver and having an attainable fitness goal can give seniors a sense of purpose and accountability.
HIRE A CAREGIVER
Having a caregiver can greatly reduce feelings of loneliness in seniors. At Royal Home Caregivers, we provide joyful companionship, conversation and plan recreational activities for the client.
There’s no doubt that senior isolation has a negative impact on seniors that can lead to risky behaviors, emotional distress, and even cause a physical threat to your loved one’s well-being. But, it doesn’t have to. Contact us today and help your loved one feel as loved and appreciated as they truly are.