Individuals of all ages have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation at some point in their lives. They commonly arise when there is a lack of social interaction with other people, whether it’s with friends, family, or the surrounding community. As a result, there are both physical health and mental health side effects that come from these emotions. Though someone can feel lonely at any age, the senior age group is most at risk of suffering more severe consequences from these emotions. Listed below are the top three ways that seniors are impacted by feelings of loneliness and isolation, and ways they can overcome them:
- Increased Physical Health Risks
Several scientific studies have discovered a correlation between loneliness and isolation and increased physical health risks. One study from the Aging Life Care Association found that seniors who have little social interactions with others have a higher chance of developing dementia. It is believed that this is because there is not enough brain stimulation, which is usually derived from interacting with other people. Less severe but just as important consequences include forgetting to eat, bathe, and keep active, all of which have their own adverse effects on a senior’s physical well-being.
- Higher Rates of Anxiety and Depression
Those who suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation also tend to suffer from poor mental health, anxiety, and depression. As a result, seniors may be less inclined to partake in activities that once brought them joy and kept them active, including participating in favored hobbies or outside exercise. Additionally, seniors may develop a more negative outlook on their life and put less importance on their own health and safety, increasing their chances of harm and even mortality.
- Increased Risk of Mortality
Another significant risk due to loneliness and isolation is the increased mortality rate. A 2013 study found that mortality was higher among more socially isolated and lonely participants. In isolated situations, seniors may not be motivated to seek help if they are suffering from any type of pain as to not cause a problem for others, or out of fear of interacting with other people. Consequently, they increase their chances of developing serious health conditions that can lead to their mortality.
Though these risks may seem scary, there are ways to help the elderly who may feel lonely or isolated. For instance, Assisting Hands Homecare offers activities such as accompanied walks, companionship, and recreational visits. Simply having another individual to communicate and interact with can go a long way to making a senior feel less lonely. Even a brief visit can do wonders for improving a senior’s mental health, lessen the risks of serious physical health problems, and lead to a happier life overall.