Isolation among senior citizens is a growing concern. Many senior citizens find themselves isolated from their family and friends, social gatherings, activities and all of the things that help keep a person healthy in mind, body and spirit.
Isolation is hard on any adult, but it can be particularly debilitating for older Americans. Studies have shown that extended periods of isolation can have profoundly negative effects on mental and physical health.
A 2020 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found some disturbing health risks associated with loneliness:
- Higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide are associated with loneliness.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
- Social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes. Isolation also was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.
The fact is, for a variety of reasons, older adults are more likely to experience isolation than younger people. Some of the most common reasons include lack of transportation, struggles with mobility, chronic health conditions, living alone and loss of vision or hearing.
While these numbers are alarming, there are ways that seniors can ward off the feelings of isolation and stay connected to their community:
Learn a new skill – Studies show that when seniors learn a new skill, such as playing an instrument, learning a new language or a new technology, it strengthens connection within the brain and it keeps dementia at bay. It is very beneficial to continue to challenge yourself to learn or to try new things.
Join a Senior-Focused Organization – (Like SCAN!) Most areas have a variety of senior organizations, so consider getting involved. Whether it be an organization like SCAN or your local Senior Center or YMCA. Your church or synagogue may also offer wellness programs.
Consider Moving to a Senior Community – There’s strength in numbers as the saying goes, and that certainly is the case with Senior Communities here at the Jersey Shore. These communities offer activities and programs throughout the day and evening. Some may also have transportation services for residents to enjoy outings to popular local destinations, as well as for medical appointments and other necessities. SCAN also has many senior community sponsors as well, so feel free to ask our team for some suggestions.
Other ways you can stay connected include connecting with your friends and family regularly via video chat such as Zoom, Skype or GoogleMeet. You can also look into local transportation services or call your nearest agency on aging.
For more information on staying active, healthy and connected this year and beyond, contact the Senior Citizens Activities Network at 732-542-1326 or visit them online at https://scannj.org.