You may have heard the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child?” Well, it turns out that sentiment rings true for seniors too. Social isolation and loneliness are a growing health concern among seniors.
Loneliness is the feeling of being alone or separated, and social isolation is having a lack of social connections or the absence of social contacts. Almost one-fourth of adults 65 years and older are socially isolated.
How Does Social Isolation Affect Health
Social connections are a good predictor of health. Studies have found a link between social isolation and health. Older adults socially connected with family and friends have significantly better health outcomes and are less likely to experience poor health.
The fastest-growing age group in the United States is 65+ years, and as they age, their health needs change. With problems such as trouble getting around, disability, memory loss, and loss of family, their risk for social isolation increases.
Seniors who live alone or in isolation are at greater risk for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression, anxiety, obesity, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and premature death. Seniors who are socially isolated or lonely can also get less exercise and have poor sleep quality, nutrition, and cognitive stimulation.
Benefits of Having Social Connections
Social connections keep seniors healthy because they offer a range of benefits, including:
- Better mental and physical well-being
- Better life satisfaction
- Decreases cognitive decline over time
- Less likely to experience impaired ability to perform everyday tasks
- Less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Lower the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Help to reduce pain
- Lower blood pressure
- Help seniors live longer and reduce early death by 50%
Ways to Maintain Social Connections
Apart from health, there is a reason why seniors need social connections. Humans, on a fundamental level, are wired to connect. We’re social animals, and we need interaction with other people to thrive.
Seniors can feel isolated from society, but they may often feel alienated from their families. Social connections can help alleviate this sense of isolation by allowing them to interact with other people regularly.
If you’re caring for an aging loved one who feels lonely or isolated, here are some ways you can help them by increasing their social connection to others:
- Help them get out of the house more often.
- Spend more quality time with them.
- Encourage joining classes or other activities at their local senior center.
- Join a seniors club.
- Set up regular family dinners with relatives and friends who live nearby.
- Help them find hobbies or a purpose by volunteering for a worthy cause.
A poll on healthy aging showed one in three adults lack regular companionship, and one in four feel isolated from other people some of the time. One way to overcome this is to make multi-generational friendships.
Other ways to keep seniors healthy:
- Animal companions: if they are able to care for a pet, pet ownership or animal-assisted therapy is shown to lessen social isolation.
- Senior living communities: senior communities or retirement communities help seniors overcome social isolation experienced when living alone, either after losing a spouse or through a divorce.
Support from Silver Comet Village
As we age, the number of friends and family members who can keep us company often dwindles. Whether you’re a senior yourself or you have parents or grandparents who are, you know how important it is to stay connected with family and friends. This is where senior centers, clubs, other social organizations, and senior living come in.
The numbers speak for themselves: Seniors with strong social connections have better health outcomes than those who don’t. But what if you’re not able to get out and about?
Silver Comet Village has no shortage of social, recreational, fitness, and entertainment activities. Depending on your interests, there are on-site and off-site activities.
There is no lack of social connections in our community, with different people and varying interests. Call us or schedule a tour to find out how you can enjoy an enriching social life.