There were 26.8 million households headed by someone 65 and older in 2013, up 24% from 10 years earlier. The U.S. Census Bureau also found that households headed by a person 75 and older grew 13% to 12.2 million. Meanwhile, the number of older people living in institutions or with relatives has declined. Living alone has supplanted living with relatives as the most common scenario for women 75 and over (www.census.gov).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level” (www.cdc.org). These people may need assistance, but staying home, whether in the family residence or a downsized version, is a paramount goal. A 2010 AARP survey found 88% of respondents 65 and older said they wanted to stay in their current residence as long as possible (www.aarp.org).
Some Facts about Living Alone
- Seniors who feel lonely and isolated are more likely to report also having poor physical and/or mental health. (National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, 2009)
- There is often a connection between social isolation and higher rates of elder abuse. (National Center on Elder Abuse)
- Socially isolated seniors are more likely to predict their quality of life will get worse over the next 5-10 years. (National Council on Aging)
- People who are socially isolated or lonely are also more likely to report risky health behaviors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking. (English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, 2011)
Tips for Living Alone
- Exercise – staying active contributes to staying healthy
- Good nutrition – a healthy diet helps us to stay fit
- Daily check ins – make an arrangement to chat with a friend or family member every day
- Be Neighborly – a watchful neighbor can be a great asset when family is not present
- Get a Medical Alert System – when there is a crisis, the Alert System is a connection to help
Social contacts tend to decrease as we age for a variety of reasons, including retirement, the death of friends and family, or lack of mobility. Regardless of the causes of senior isolation, the consequences can be alarming and even harmful. Even perceived social isolation – the feeling that you are lonely – is a struggle for many older people. Fortunately, the past couple of decades have seen increasing research into the risks, causes, and prevention of loneliness in seniors.