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The Health Risks of Isolation For Seniors

July 12, 2016

The Health Risks of Isolation For Seniors

Remaining in your own home as you age can have financial and emotional benefits for many seniors, but isolation can a dangerous side effect of living alone.

Aging in place is the term that many seniors and Baby Boomers have adopted for not wanting to leave their home as they age. AARP has found that 87 percent of adults aged 65+ “want to remain in their current home and community as they age.” And according to the most recent data from the Administration on Aging, roughly 12.5 million older Americans live alone.

While it’s admirable to want to remain independent, there can be serious health risks associated with feeling isolated and alone.

Isolation is a Health Risk

The Journal of Health and Social Behavior published a study in 2009 which found that “social disconnectedness and perceived isolation are independently associated with lower levels of self-rated physical health” in older adults.

Their research cited numerous other studies that found isolation as a health risk for seniors in such capacities as:

  • Having similar effects on health as those caused by smoking cigarettes or obesity
  • Suffering higher rates of early mortality
  • Higher likelihood of developing infections
  • More likely to suffer from depression
  • Higher instances of cognitive decline

The study goes on to define this type of isolation in the elderly as being “characterized by the subjective experience of a shortfall in one's social resources such as companionship and support.” The research also found unique differences between the effects of isolation and the effects of loneliness.

The Downside of Loneliness

Contrary to popular believe, the feeling of loneliness is not the same as isolation in seniors. An article published on the “Aging Well” blog from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada describes loneliness as “the subjective experience of distress over not having enough social relationships or not enough contact with people.” According to the article, older adults who experience long bouts of loneliness have higher mortality rates and are more likely to experience a decline in mobility, than those who feel socially connected.

If you are worried about a friend or loved one who lives alone, make an effort to spend more quality time with them, whether in person or with additional phone calls. Another option to consider is to encourage them to tour a senior Living community, like Five Star Senior Living.

Socialization and Seniors

An important aspect of aging well is the ability to remain social and be an active member of the community. There is a significant amount of research that has shown social connectivity among seniors to be the key to a longer, happier life.

Life at a senior living community not only promotes health and wellness, but also encourages socialization for seniors. From the restaurant-style community dining rooms to the Lifestyle360 Program, there are a wide variety of opportunities to get involved with neighbors and peers.

Community involvement--whether it is from participating group fitness classes or joining a book club--can help you to continue to live a full and enriching life.

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