Social disconnection doesn’t just affect seniors’ mental health and quality of life, but their physical health too.
Social isolation and loneliness in the elderly is an increasing problem in the United States, but too often it’s one we don’t want to think about. The older adult population is growing. With that comes the risk that some seniors may lose the social connections that they need to thrive.
It can be difficult to measure loneliness and social disconnection precisely. The experience varies dramatically from person to person. There is strong evidence though that social isolation in the elderly is a problem that puts their physical health at risk:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine noted that recent studies have found that:
Aging and retiring from work are a major life transition. They can pose significant challenges to the health and well-being of older adults.
Large-scale studies have shown that around 25% of retirees in the US experience a significant decline in their health and well-being during this period. For every social group that participants reported losing in the years following retirement, they reported a 10% lower quality of life 6 years later.
While a decline in health is not universal and many factors are at play, overall there is evidence that social isolation in the elderly plays an important part in their health. Social relationships are a significant predictor of longevity. Social connections have shown to be even stronger influences than other health behaviors such as:
Overall, socially engaged seniors report reduced depression and better cognitive health.
Certain populations of older adults are at even higher risk for loneliness and social detachment. These include immigrants, LGBT populations, and minorities.
There has been less research done in these groups but the research that does exist shows that these populations experience loneliness and its impacts more often than other groups.
First-generation immigrants may experience stressors that increase their isolation. These include:
Social connection is a term used to describe the structure, function, and quality of human relationships and interactions.
Social isolation in the elderly and others occurs when there is a lack of or limited extent of social contact with others. Loneliness is the subjective feeling of being lonely or negatively perceiving your lack of social connections.
Not all people who are socially isolated are lonely. Some people may naturally spend more time by themselves and are not bothered by it. Additionally, it is possible to have many social connections but still feel lonely if those connections don’t meet the person’s needs.
What’s most important is that older adults feel socially supported. Social support refers to a person’s ability to get their needs met by others in their social network. The amount of social support needed is unique to each individual.
The signs and symptoms of social isolation in the elderly can vary from person to person. If you find yourself or your loved one consistently feeling any of the following, you might be suffering from a lack of connection or loneliness.
Social isolation in the elderly is not an inevitable fact of life. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever for seniors to stay connected to friends and family. Here are some ways that seniors can stay socially active as they age:
Isolation and loneliness can take a toll on older adults. Assisted living can help seniors stave off social disconnection by providing a supportive environment to age in place.
Some of the features at Amber Court Assisted Living that can help promote a sense of social connection and combat social isolation in older adults include:
Reach out to Amber Court Assisted Living today and find out how we can help your family to prevent social isolation in someone you love.
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