According to the study “A Review of Social Isolation” by Nicholas R. Nicholson, which was published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, over 40% of Seniors who live at home are living in isolation. This is an alarming statistic in light of the fact that there is an increasing trend for seniors to “age in place” and the senior population in the over 65 age group is predicted to more than double in the next 25 years. The alarming part is that social isolation is a major health problem in older adults and is expected to dramatically increase in the near future. Studies have proven that this isolation and resulting lack of social activities can be directly linked to an increase in cognitive decline. In addition, by not belonging to a social network seniors don’t benefit from the positive encouragement of their friends to comply with healthy practices such as not smoking or staying active. Another health risk of isolation is depression which can worsen many conditions that seniors suffer from such as chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
Isolation can happen for a variety of reasons—some by choice and some as a result of unexpected events. The death of a spouse often leaves the mate feeling alone and so sad that they can’t bear to keep up their old friendships with others. It’s also not uncommon for children to live a long distance away leaving get-togethers something that happens during the holidays or vacations. Getting older with now impaired vision or hearing can prevent a senior from driving and thus limit opportunities to get out. Problems with urinary incontinence may make it seem inconvenient to go anywhere and sleeping issues at night may make daytime drowsiness a deterrent from outside activities. If there are any safety issues with crime in the neighborhood, the senior may be reluctant to leave their home.
If you know or care for a senior living alone, there are things you can do to help prevent their isolation from the community. Encourage them to stay connected whether by phone or email or Skype. Make sure to regularly schedule and keep doctor and optometrist appointments so that vision or health problems are dealt with and won’t keep the senior house bound. Encourage involvement with others, whether it’s the local senior center or church group. If transportation is a problem, check into public transportation or community based volunteer drivers.If your senior is capable of and interested in caring for a pet it can give them a sense of purpose. It’s amazing how many people you meet just out walking the dog! You may also consider hiring a companion from a home care agency to assist with transportation and running errands or simply to provide some social contact and interaction. Small changes add up and make a big difference. Social isolation doesn’t happen overnight and can’t be remedied overnight. Do you have any tips on how to keep your loved one involved in life? Share below and visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com