When you think of relationships important to you, who do you think of? Many people would think of their partner or children, their best friends, or work colleagues. These connections with people who encourage and support us are crucial to our emotional health and overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, seniors can find themselves living without friendships and relationships as they enter their older adult years.
Without peer support networks and meaningful relationships, seniors can feel lonely, depressed, and anxious. Even more worrisome is the research that demonstrates loneliness and social isolation can also lead to physical health decline as well.
The Dangers of Isolation
Seniors can begin to become isolated slowly, and they may not realize just how isolated they are until years later. However, as family members move away or as friends pass away, or as the senior can no longer safely drive to social functions, isolation creeps in quickly.
Isolation can often bring in feelings of perceived loneliness, which the World Health Organization has officially declared as a determinant of overall health. Social isolation and loneliness are more prevalent than you may realize. For example, the Campaign to End Loneliness reports that an estimated 500,000 older people go at least five days per week without seeing or speaking to anyone. This isolation is the crux of many physical and mental health issues among seniors.
The Texas Medical Center notes that social isolation added with the complexities of chronic medical or cognitive conditions can make overall health even worse in older adults. The immune system can become overloaded, which means lonely or isolated seniors are at risk of getting sick more often – and staying sick longer – than their socially healthy counterparts. Further, isolation can cause a higher risk of cognitive decline, obesity, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and even death.
The Potential Solutions
Isolation and perceived loneliness are all too common in seniors throughout the globe. However, there are potential solutions that can make socialization and relationship-building a bit easier for older adults. Community resources, such as senior centers and public senior-friendly transportation, can make regular social interactions more attainable. Local places of worship can also sometimes offer senior-based fellowship opportunities and transportation to and from the event. These are all excellent ways to add more social opportunities to an older adult’s calendar.
Another solution to isolation in seniors is to experience senior living communities. Gone are the days of dreary “nursing homes” (thank goodness!). Instead, today’s senior living communities are vibrant and bustling with activity. Residents enjoy meaningful connections not only with staff members but also with their peers who live right down the hall.
The team at Oasis Senior Advisors Milwaukee is ready to help find the best solutions for our older adult clients. We want seniors throughout the area to feel connected, healthy, and happy.