Not only do loneliness and isolation in seniors and other age groups pose serious hazards to emotional, mental and physical health, but they have also been declared an epidemic by the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has released a Surgeon General Advisory calling attention to this public health crisis.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Surgeon General’s Advisories are public statements that call the American people’s attention to a critical public health issue and provide recommendations for how it should be addressed. Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that need the American people’s immediate attention.
In his Advisory, Dr. Murthy states,
“Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight – one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives.”
“Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance use disorders. Together, we can build a country that’s healthier, more resilient, less lonely, and more connected.”
It’s clear that engaging and connecting with others is vital for older adults. One of the pillars of Dr. Murthy’s Advisory calls for “cultivating a culture of connection,” where people can come together and benefit from healthy connection. This is one area where the right living environment can play a significant role.
Isolation in seniors: understanding what’s going on
Mom doesn’t seem interested in having Sunday dinner with the family lately. Or Dad has stopped attending his regular lodge meetings. While having some alone time is perfectly normal, when it persists, it might be time to find out what is going on.
If you’ve noticed your loved one seems to be avoiding socializing with family or friends, you will want to learn what is behind their reluctance. There could be several reasons. For example:
- They might be feeling unsteady on their feet due to mobility issues, which can lead to a fear of falling.
- They might be experiencing changes in their vision or hearing.
- If they are experiencing bouts of confusion, they may fear becoming lost.
- Driving, particularly at night, might have become unsettling.
- Even if you offer to pick up your loved one and take them to a family gathering, they might be worried that you will notice their physical challenges and decide they can no longer live on their own.
- Their longtime friends and trusted neighbors may have moved on or are too busy with their families to include them in social events.
Isolation in seniors can be the result of several of these factors. Consider going with your loved one to visit their physician in order to determine if there is a change in health that needs to be addressed.
Let them know you are simply concerned about their health and safety, as well as their happiness. It’s quite possible they will welcome the opportunity to discuss their concerns with you.
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Why isolation in seniors is so dangerous
Prolonged social isolation can lead to an almost 30% increase in the risk of premature death through health conditions including diabetes, heart attacks, insomnia and dementia. In fact, in terms of impacts on health and well-being, loneliness has been compared to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Why is loneliness increasing?
According to the Census Bureau, people are spending less time with friends and more time alone, and this was true even before the pandemic. Researchers say it’s due to many factors; some have even tied the first spike in loneliness numbers to the arrival of the smartphone in 2014. But even a fun game on the phone doesn’t replace the significant health benefits of engagement and connection with others, especially with older adults.
When it comes to isolation in seniors, choosing a vibrant senior living community can make all the difference.
Senior living: where getting the benefits of socializing is easy
A senior living alone in a neighborhood where most friends have moved away can quickly become bored and depressed. There’s nothing to do except watch television or take a nap. It can feel like the world has passed them by.
Take that same senior and put them in a vibrant, inspiring senior living atmosphere filled with friends and fun, and they’re most likely going to enjoy life in a whole new way. Just knowing friends are nearby can give a previously lonely senior a new sense of purpose and a feeling of belonging.
At Heritage Communities, we believe retirement living should bring more to your life. More fun. More friends. More ways to engage and connect. We call it living better. Here are just a few of the socializing opportunities you’ll find in one of our communities:
- Activities and events that bring residents, family and friends together to celebrate holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
- Pleasant dining experiences filled with delicious food and lively conversation.
- Good friends right next door so there’s always someone close by for companionship.
- Group wellness and exercise classes and programs make it easier to stay motivated and inspired to follow healthy habits.
- Exceptional amenities that bring residents together for entertainment, learning, and more.
- Inviting outdoor spaces for special occasions, family and visits, and moments of meditation.
Whether your loved one is a private person, a social butterfly, or a little of both, at Heritage Communities, every resident can enjoy the comfort and privacy of their own apartment, as well as a bustling atmosphere filled with opportunities for healthy socializing. We’d love to tell you more.