As we age, our social obligations and our very want and desire to socialize can both diminish. Seniors may avoid socializing or have fewer opportunities to do so for several reasons. These include a loss of friends or loved ones, an illness, no longer feeling comfortable either physically or mentally in social situations, or retiring from a workplace or voluntary role due to age.

It’s important to remember that loneliness and social isolation differ. Loneliness is feeling isolated regardless of whether we’re surrounded by people or we have a busy social calendar. On the other hand, social isolation is living alone and no longer receiving social invites or guests, which may lead to loneliness.

Regrettably, social isolation can pose risks to vulnerable communities, like seniors.

Social Isolation Increases the Likelihood of Dementia

According to a revolutionary study by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “social isolation among older adults is associated with a greater dementia risk.” Causes for this were attributed to loneliness, allowing for lessened executive function. In other words, socially isolated people have less potential for planning, holding conversations, decision making and different situations where cognitive ability is required.

If you or a loved one has recently received a dementia diagnosis, it’s key to connect with an expert service like Integracare Home Care for optimal forward planning and to prepare for every eventuality. Here, the individual living with the diagnosis can receive compassionate and flexible live-in or in-home care. Not only does this alleviate concerns for the person’s physical health, but having a steady companion can mitigate social isolation woes, too.

Social Isolation May Cause Heart Disease

An article published by Web MD reported that loneliness, isolation, and lack of social relationships are contributing risk factors for seniors who develop coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke. Lack of mental stimulation and inactivity are both contributing factors to CHD.

Social Isolation Can Lead to an Early Death

It has been suggested that individuals who experience social isolation have a heightened risk of early death. In fact, a study from Duke University found that relative morality was almost three times higher for those who reported having no social acquaintances compared to those who did.

Further causes for heart disease and early mortality for seniors experiencing isolation can be attributed to isolated individuals being more likely to smoke, to drink higher levels of alcohol, and partake in little to no physical activity — which in turn means a higher propensity for obesity.

Takeaway

In a 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, they found that 25% of adults aged 65 and up are considered to be socially isolated. If you know of a senior who might be in need of companionship, consider connecting with them or reaching out to a local community support group that might be able to help. Think of petitioning for better transit and social opportunities in your areas for seniors or spearhead (and host) a senior-specific program in your area with extensive outreach.

Through patience and compassion and by seeking the right assistance, you may be able to make a world of difference to a senior in need.

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