There are countless benefits to having strong friendships, especially as we grow older. Yet for many older adults, social ties fade over time, increasing the risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation. According to recent research, 18 percent of seniors live alone and 43 percent report feeling lonely on a regular basis.
The negative consequences of isolation are significant. Senior isolation is related to increased cognitive decline, depression, poor diet, and even increased mortality. Loneliness can impede one’s recovery from illness or injury, which can lead to even further isolation. Older adults living alone are also often easy victims to scams or other crimes.
If your loved one or relative is living alone, be aware of the warning signs of senior isolation.
Have you noticed your parent or relative eating an unusual diet? As we age, it is normal for our appetites to decrease. However, if you’re concerned that your loved one isn’t eating enough fresh foods, or simply isn’t making an effort to stay healthy, you may want to talk to them about changing their diet. Some older adults may find it difficult to get to the grocery store due to mobility issues or a lack of transportation. One way to prevent this problem is by moving your older loved one to a retirement community where they will have access to freshly prepared meals each day.
Older adults may experience normal changes in their sleeping patterns with age, but frequent insomnia can be a warning sign of loneliness. Poor sleep quality can also affect other aspects of one’s physical and mental health. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s sleep problems, encourage them to consult a doctor to address these concerns. For many older adults, moving to community-based living in senior living communities can help ease feelings of loneliness. With daily activities, classes, clubs, and social outings, senior living communities can offer older adults a safer place to live while preventing loneliness and isolation.
Reluctance to participate
Once an older adult has been isolated from friends and family for a long period of time, he or she may be reluctant to participate in activities and may withdraw from social gatherings. Ironically, refusing to attend social gatherings often only exacerbates their feelings of loneliness and isolation. This may also be a sign of a greater issue, such as depression. If you’re suspicious that your loved one is withdrawing due to isolation, express your concern and offer to help. Schedule regular visits and encourage them to connect with others through classes, clubs, or new hobbies.
Isolation is a dangerous problem among older adults, but it is preventable. Many adults benefit from the safety and socialization offered at senior living communities. If you’re concerned about the wellbeing of an older parent or relative, it may be time to start researching options for independent or assisted living in a retirement community.