Why It's Important to Prevent a Senior From Becoming Isolated in the Winter Months

Why It's Important to Prevent a Senior From Becoming Isolated in the Winter Months

  • February 08, 2018

Winter can be a tough time of year for older adults who live in colder climates. Frigid temperatures combined with icy and snowy sidewalks often prevent seniors from leaving their homes. As the weeks go by, it isn’t uncommon for seniors to begin to suffer the negative health effects caused by loneliness and isolation. 

And we now know that prolonged isolation among older adults is linked to a variety of health issues:

  • Increased risk for falls and decreased mobility
  • Unintended weight gain and obesity
  • Cardiac-related health problems
  • Diabetes 
  • Depression
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

Seniors who are isolated are also at higher risk for becoming the victim of a financial scam or identity theft.

But isolation is different than feeling lonely—and it’s important to understand the difference.

What Does Isolation Mean for Seniors?

Researchers from McMaster University describe the difference between loneliness and isolation as this:

“Whereas social isolation arises in situations where a person does not have enough people to interact with, an objective state, loneliness is the subjective experience of distress over not having enough social relationships or not enough contact with people. Although the two concepts can be related, a person can be socially isolated but not feel lonely, whereas an individual with a seemingly large social network can still experience loneliness.”

These are the most common causes of isolation in older adults: 

  1. Transportation: If a senior no longer feels safe behind the wheel of their car, they may cut back on their driving or give it up entirely. Many aren’t aware of local transportation options and find themselves stuck at home. If this is an issue for an older adult you love, call your local agency on aging. Most of these agencies maintain a list of affordable, reliable senior transportation providers.  
  2. Loss of Social Network: As we grow older, our social networks often decrease in size. Friends and neighbors move in to a senior community or out-of town to be closer to family. Retiring from a career can lead to the loss of work friends. Helping your loved one rebuild their social network might mean volunteering, joining a local senior center, or getting involved with programs at a church or synagogue.
  3. Loss of a Spouse or Partner: When a senior loses their partner or spouse, their grief and sadness can put them at increased risk for both loneliness and isolation. Going from being part of a couple to attending events and activities alone can be tough. Connecting the older adult with a widow or widowers group can help them cope with difficult days and start a new chapter in life.

Life Enrichment at Five Star

At Five Star Senior Living communities, our residents have more than ample opportunities to stay connected every day. From informal gatherings over breakfast, lunch, and dinner to daily life enrichment activities, we invite you to stop by and learn more!

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