Loneliness is one of the most common and least known health problems that can affect the elderly. The death of spouses and close friends, the departure of family members, and the onset of chronic illness are all factors that lead to isolation and loneliness with age. Even worse, loneliness can lead to a variety of health problems in older people, including an increased risk of death, cognitive decline, depression, high blood pressure, dementia, and a number of other conditions.
Senior Isolation and Loneliness Causes:
Loneliness and social isolation among the elderly are major public health issues that affect large numbers of people in the United States, putting them at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions. Living alone is the most significant cause of loneliness in the elderly. However, there are a number of additional variables that can contribute to older people’s isolation and loneliness. These elements include:
- Children moving away
- The deterioration of a friend network (often due to death)
- The death of one’s spouse
- A change in the living environment
- The fear of becoming a burden
- Difficulty communicating (i.e. language barriers and hearing problems)
- Illness (particularly dementia)
The fear of going out and incurring an injury
Each of these variables can make older people more lonely. Increased loneliness can have many negative health effects.
Isolation increases the likelihood of elder abuse. Scams and financial abuse are more likely to target isolated older people. One of the lesser-known forms of elder abuse, neglect, is likely to go unnoticed. Without a trusted family member, older adults are less likely to report physical abuse, and if they have no other care options, they may cover for abusers.
Maintaining a balanced diet is more of a challenge for lonely older people. Older adults may be less likely to eat nutritious, balanced meals due to decreased appetite, drug side effects, and physical changes.
Alzheimer’s disease is exacerbated by loneliness: According to a Rush Institute for Healthy Aging study, Loneliness is a risk factor for cognitive decline. According to the study, the risk of Alzheimer’s almost doubled among lonely older people, and mental breakdown was more rapid. This may be because isolated older people receive less stimulation or are less likely to report their symptoms before the disease develops.
Increased Risk of Depression
The effect of loneliness on mood is perhaps one of the most visceral effects of loneliness. Loneliness is usually associated with unpleasant feelings such as melancholy, longing, numbness, and low self-esteem, regardless of demographic category. It turns out that loneliness is directly linked to depressive symptoms in adults and the elderly. This shows that loneliness can contribute to mental health problems such as depression or exacerbate mental health problems in people who already have them.
Recognizing signs and symptoms
Now that the many detrimental health effects of loneliness are known, it is clear that overcoming loneliness is critical to the health and well-being of any older person. In many situations, acknowledging loneliness is the first step in dealing with it. If you suspect an older person in your life is suffering from loneliness, look out for the following signs and symptoms:
- Despair or emotions of sadness
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Memory problems and sleep disorders
- Personal hygiene and other procedures are ignored.
- Aches and pains that are unexplained or get worse
- Loss of interest in hobbies, social activities, or other daily tasks
- Tips for Reducing Senior Isolation and Loneliness
While loneliness can be detrimental to health, it can also be alleviated through a variety of activities and treatments. For many older people, simply having more people around them is enough to make them feel less lonely. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as arranging frequent trips and visits with friends and family, participating in social events for the elderly, volunteering, and moving to an independent or nursing home.
Another healthy activity that can help older people feel less alone is exercise. According to one Health Quality Ontario study, older adults reported feeling better when they did regular aerobic and low-intensity exercise.
Learn More and Get in Touch
Want to learn more about senior loneliness and how to avoid it? Our Home Care Embassy specialists will be happy to assist you. Explore our website to learn more about the many great senior life alternatives and social activities we offer and get in touch with one of our staff today!