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How to Combat Social Isolation in Seniors

What Is Senior Isolation?

From Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” to Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” loneliness has often been a subject for songwriters. But feelings of loneliness aren’t limited to the lovelorn. In fact, social isolation and loneliness are considered public health risks that affect about 25% of Americans age 65 and older. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of senior isolation and some potential remedies.

What Factors Contribute to  Social Isolation?

People of all ages are susceptible to isolation and loneliness, but seniors are particularly at risk for a variety of reasons, including:
· Health issues. Hearing loss, diminished mobility, or other health-related concerns can make it difficult for seniors to engage socially.
· Increased likelihood of living alone. An estimated 28% of seniors live alone, which can increase the risk of loneliness.
·Shrinking social circle. Losing friends and loved ones not only means a smaller network of established relationships, but it also causes grief and depression, which can compound loneliness and isolation.
·Retirement. Work often provides a sense of purpose and community. Retiring can be disorienting, leading to withdrawal and feelings of aimlessness.

Are There Health Risks Associated with Senior Isolation?

Most people have experienced loneliness and know it can feel miserable. However,recent studies suggest that social isolation and loneliness can take a dramatic toll on seniors’ overall health, seriously impacting both physical and mental well-being in a variety of ways, including:
·Increased risk of premature death from all causes, similar to the risk caused by smoking, obesity and physical inactivity
·Higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide
·29% increased risk of heart disease
·32% higher risk of stroke
· 50% increase in the likelihood of developing dementia
·Poor outcomes for patients with heart failure
·Greater vulnerability to elder abuse

Ways to Connect: How to Prevent Social Isolation in Older Adults?

Sometimes the problem and the solution spring from the same seed. Humans are inherently social beings, so we not only suffer when we’re isolated but we — and the people around us — have a natural inclination to connect. There are many ways seniors, and their loved ones, can strengthen and support that natural aptitude for connection and relationship.

·Take advantage of technology. Video calls, text messaging, and email allow you to conveniently connect with family and friends from your computer or smartphone. Consider setting up a specific day and time to reach out to loved ones to ensure regular interaction.
· Join local clubs or communities. Faith-based organizations, the local senior center, or community organizations typically have a welcoming atmosphere and planned events that encourage you to connect with others in your area.
·Volunteer. Helping others is a way to connect with people in a meaningful way. Consider skills you have to share or simply be willing to give your time.
·Reach out to neighbors. Befriending neighbors can create a strong sense of belonging and community. Come up with ways to strengthen those connections — start a book club, exchange perennials, or invite a young mother and her child over for cookies.
·Take classes. Local community centers, art centers, or universities offer a variety of classes that allow you to connect with others and enjoy lifelong learning.
·Get in-home help. An in-home caregiver is paid to assist you with daily tasks, making life easier and providing regular companionship.
·Send letters. It’s an old-fashioned idea, but sending and receiving mail can be a way to reach out across geographic distances. If friends and family aren’t committed correspondents, try sites like Postcrossing, which allows you to exchange postcards with participants around the world.
·Address health issues. If hearing loss, mobility challenges, or other health conditions make it hard to connect, talk to your doctor about finding a solution. The fix may be quite simple and the reward is renewed opportunities to be socially active.
·Consider a senior living community. With a calendar full of activities and social events and a campus brimming with potential new friends, a senior living community can be the perfect antidote to senior isolation.

Eagle Senior Living Provides an All-in-One Solution

At Eagle Senior Living, neighbors and new friends are just down the hall. Activities and social events create opportunities for social engagement. And if challenges with mobility or self-care create barriers to connection, our Assisted Living communities provide the help you need to be as active and engaged as you want to be. Connect with us to find out more about how our person-centered approach to senior living makes each of our communities a welcome remedy to senior isolation.