Chronic Isolation and the Elderly
When you consider all the public health risks that are associated with older adults, there are two important ones that are often overlooked – loneliness and social isolation. While some may think this is a simple frame of mind or mood issue, chronic isolation is actually correlated with many serious health issues that can negatively affect an older adult’s health and well-being.
The elderly are simply more at risk for finding themselves alone. Spouses and friends may have passed, or family members may live too far away to stay in close contact. Perhaps the person is no longer driving or is physically unable to get out and about. No matter the reason, the natural progression of life contributes to an older person becoming isolated and this can put the elderly at risk for a variety of medical conditions.
Medical Conditions Linked to Isolation and Loneliness in the Elderly
InA related study conducted by NIH links loneliness and social isolation to a higher risk for a long list of physical and mental ailments. Some of these include high blood pressure, heart disease, and a weakened immune system. Those living alone also suffer more often from stroke, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, as well as Alzheimer’s and other cognitive declines. The CDC report found 50 percent of older adults in socially isolated living situations had an increased incidence of dementia.
Addressing Social Isolation and Loneliness Head On
Older adults deserve to spend the last years of their lives to the fullest. Suffering in an isolated situation that causes extreme loneliness isn’t good for the body, mind, or soul. Families and caregivers are often stretched too thin, which means even when their loved one exhibits signs of isolation or loneliness, there is only so much that can be done.
Paying close attention to and monitoring for signs of loneliness or isolation is key to maintaining an older adult’s health and happiness. Helping your senior connect with community groups, encouraging them to join a club, or making a concerted effort to avoid chronic isolation is a start. Often, the best solution is to find senior residential housing where the older adult becomes part of a vibrant community and is able to explore interests with others going through a similar stage of life.
The area’s newest and most innovative supportive living community, Village Crossing, provides the type of setting where seniors can thrive without experiencing the isolation and loneliness that can come with chronic isolation or living alone. If you or your loved one is looking for a place to belong, call 301-709-7366 to make an appointment for a personal tour of our lively senior living community.