Aging into our senior years can be a wonderful time of life. We have more time to spend on activities we enjoy with family and friends. However, there are many seniors that find loneliness is their only companion. Studies have found that lonely and isolated seniors have one of the highest rates for dying and it can be much worse than even obesity or smoking.
Reasons for Isolation and Loneliness
Many health related issues can cause elders to isolate themselves. Poor eyesight can result in a loss of their driver’s license. A fall can make a senior afraid to get out and enjoy a social life. Dementia can be another factor. When a senior realizes they’re having trouble remembering, they avoid talking especially in social settings. Many seniors have bouts with incontinence so they fear an accident should they go out for a social event.
The stress of loneliness can cause minor health issues to escalate. The isolated senior often declines due to increased blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.
The older we get the more likely we are to have losses in our lives. The death of a spouse, friends or other family members narrows our social network, not to mention that grief can play a role in causing a person to isolate. Old neighbors pass away or move into assisted living communities. Our neighbors are a rich resource for all of us and when we lose them, it hurts.
We are all social creatures and it’s just a fact — people need people. When you have close contact with friends and family, they notice even subtle changes in your health and well-being. They care and let us know when they see something going wrong with us. People who have good social and familial connections are less likely to suffer from depression — a major cause to isolate.
Ways to Combat Loneliness
Many of the health issues that can be a factor in isolation can be dealt with. See your doctor regularly and discuss any problems you may be experiencing. Make sure you tell them if you’re feeling depressed and are having panic attacks. Your doctor can get you the help you need.
Get involved! Volunteer in your community — at the library, at the senior center or even with your local hospital. The great feeling you get while helping others will help you overcome your anxiety about getting out. You can even become a phone friend for those who are housebound. Those well-checks will benefit you and help someone in return.
If transportation has become an issue, look into your local public transportation. Most communities have bus service and dial-a-ride. Let your family and friends know that you’d appreciate a weekly ride to church services and even the grocery store. Take them to lunch as a thank you.
Join a gym or take an exercise class at your local senior center. Exercise is a great way to combat depression and keep you healthier.
People add joy and quality to our lives. Don’t deprive yourself of a happy life for any reason. It may just give you many more years to enjoy.
- AARP 7 Things to Know About Isolation
- Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America