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What to Know about Isolation and Older Adults

What to Know about Isolation and Older Adults

Health professionals who work with older adults have long believed seniors who are homebound or isolated seem to experience a greater number of health problems than those who are more active and engaged with life.

And it wasn’t just depression they were noticing. Illnesses from diabetes to cardiac disease seemed to appear more often in isolated older adults. It led researchers to tackle the issue in greater depth.

What they discovered surprised everyone. In fact, isolation is now considered to be a very serious health risk for seniors.

What Causes Isolation Among Older Adults

There are a variety of reasons seniors become isolated. The most common ones are:

  • Mobility: When chronic health conditions make it harder to get around, older adults often become afraid to leave the house. The fear of falling is a leading reason they stay close to home.
  • Transportation: Once a senior hangs up their keys and no longer drives, they may have limited access to transportation. This is especially true for older adults who live in more rural communities that don’t offer public transportation services.
  • Social Circle Decreases: Another common reason older adults become isolated is that their social circle shrinks. Children move away to pursue new career opportunities. Friends relocate to be nearer to their own children. And older loved ones may have passed away. It can leave the senior feeling lost and alone.

    The Impact of Isolation on Seniors

    Research now proves isolation contributes to a variety of problems including:

    • Malnutrition
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Depression
    • Cardiac disease
    • High blood pressure

    Seniors who are lonely are also at higher risk for falling victim to fraud ranging from home repair scams to fake sweepstakes.

    Overcoming Isolation Among Older Adults

    What can adult children and family caregivers do to prevent isolation in an older family member?

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Help them investigate transportation options in their community. The local agency on aging can be a good resource for doing so.
    • If you can’t visit in person very often, help your loved one feel connected to friends and loved ones by utilizing a video chat service like Skype or through a social media platform such as Facebook.
    • Talk with their church or synagogue to see if they have a Friendly Visitor Program. Many religious organizations have volunteers who dedicate time each week to visiting seniors in their community who are homebound.
    • Consider encouraging your aging family member to move to a senior living community. The friendships, fellowship and life enrichment programs can be just the solution an older adult needs to beat the blues and overcome isolation.

    To learn more about how important it is to stay connected in later life, visit The Campaign to End Loneliness: Connections in Older Age.

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