Nearly one-third of the aging population live on their own. That is close to approximately 14 million older adults who are aging in place by themselves. Senior isolation is common and is inevitable for some individuals. However, it is equally dangerous and can be detrimental to their health. If you have an aging parent at home or living independently on their own, here are the effects of loneliness that they may be going through right now.
Health Dangers of Social Isolation
Loneliness can be as harmful as obesity or smoking. It can complicate the existing conditions of older adults, affect their cognitive health, and encourage an unhealthy senior lifestyle.
- Increase of Unhealthy Habits: Social isolation usually leads to unhealthy habits. Older adults who get lonely are more likely to drink in excess, smoke, and neglect physical activity. To prevent this, social support plays an important role. It can encourage older adults to exercise, eat well, and lead healthier lifestyles.
- Difficult Balanced Diets: Most older adults experience a decrease in their appetite. They may also be suffering from the side effects of medications and going through various physical changes. These factors can cause older adults to be less likely to eat well-balanced diets.
- Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: When older adults get lonely, it increases their risk of Alzheimer’s disease due to cognitive decline. This occurs when isolated older adults have lesser mental stimulation. When the symptoms of the disease are not detected much earlier, it becomes difficult to slow down its progression.
- Stress Ensues: Lonely individuals tend to have higher blood pressure and stress levels. Most of them feel anxious and often cannot focus on their day-to-day tasks, thus causing their quality of life to deteriorate.
- Instances of Elder Abuse: Scammers and thieves often target isolated or lonely older adults. They may easily fall prey to tricks from strangers whom they thought were just being friendly. When these so-called newfound friends abuse them, they may even protect their abusers as they have no other caregiving resources.
- Assume the Worst: Older adults who live in isolation are 60% more likely to experience poorer quality of life that gradually deteriorates over the next decade. They also have a higher tendency to be concerned about receiving assistance as they age. They are constantly asking questions with regards to their future.
Combating Senior Isolation
Many older adults still do maintain an active social life despite staying on their own. They participate in community events and actively take part in personal hobbies. However, as we currently have to live in an endemic situation, many of these activities have been affected. Here is how you can help your aging loved one combat senior isolation:
- Stay Connected: Regardless of where you stay, you can still stay connected to your aging parents. Call them up often and ask about their day and concerns.
- Intergenerational Programs: Explore the different programs that will let your aging parents achieve a sense of purpose.
Social Engagement: Find a social outlet that lets your aging parents stay socially active. If you live