Loneliness and social isolation in the elderly and senior citizens is one of the most serious challenges that they face. These are serious public health risks that affect a significant number of people all over the world. Elderly people, as they age, start to have emotional instability, leading them to crave love and affection. However, social isolation or low emotional connection tends to make them feel unwanted, which can affect their mental health severely. Adding to this, a low emotional connection may also make them feel financially insecure. Loneliness in older age is the feeling of being alone, irrespective of the amount of social contact. On the other hand, social isolation refers to the lack of social connections that leads to loneliness in some people. That being said, sometimes, elderly people can feel lonely without being socially isolated as well.
Other than suffering from emotional instability, loneliness and social isolation can also put them at risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions. In addition to this, the effect of loneliness can also be seen on the physical health of elderly people. Older adults are more likely to face factors like not being able to spend time with their friends or family members, suffering from chronic illness, hearing loss, living away and alone from their children, and so on. The health effects of social isolation and loneliness in elderly people can be challenging and it becomes a mandate to ensure that they don’t slide into depression.
While it is not quite possible to leave work or other chores to spend time with your elders, there are quite a few things which can be done to ensure that older adults don’t feel lonely and socially isolated. At Emoha, we offer top-notch home health care services for the elderly and senior citizens who take care of all their needs – right from running errands to conducting lively activities that make the older adults feel happy and relaxed.
Health Risks and Danger of Loneliness and Social Isolation
Social isolation and loneliness cannot be measured precisely as it is quite difficult to do so, based on just a few parameters. However, there is strong evidence that most of the elderly and senior citizens are socially isolated or suffering from loneliness in ways that can put their health at risk. If the recent studies are to be considered, it is found that: –
• Loneliness can significantly increase the risk of premature death of the elderly. This is considered much more serious than smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and so on.
• Effects of isolation in older adults are also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
• It is seen that social isolation also increases the risk of dementia by almost 50%. Adding to this, poor social relationships that are characterised by loneliness increased the risk of heart disease by 29% (approx.) as well as increased the risk of stroke by 32% (approx.)
• It is also reported that because loneliness increases the risk of heart diseases, it also increases the risk of death by nearly 4 times. Along with this, 68% increased risk of hospitalization and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits are also considered as negative effects of social isolation.
Ways to Prevent Social Isolation and Loneliness in Elders
As mentioned earlier, elderly people crave nothing but love and affection as they grow older. You don’t have to do big gestures to help them; even small ones can do wonders. Here are some of the ways how you can help them come out of social isolation and loneliness.
• Reach Out to the Elderly
One of the main causes that lead to social isolation and loneliness in the elderly is the fact that their younger ones are busy in their life with work and other chores, because of which they don’t physically get to, spend time with the elderly people in their house. However, reaching out to older adults is extremely necessary. Even if it is through video calls and phone calls, keep a check on them and their health. Ask them how was their day, what they ate, whether they took their medicines, and so on. Virtual connections are a great way of ensuring that elderly people don’t feel lonely as well as makes them know that you care.
• Fuel their Hobbies
An excellent way of ensuring that older adults don’t slip into depression because of isolation and loneliness is fuelling their hobbies. Every single person has a hidden talent that needs an external push for it to come out. Interact with the older adults and ask them about their interests and hobbies. It can be anything – knitting, painting, listening to good music, and so on. Find out how they can be associated with other people who share the same hobbies. Social Isolation for the elderly can be harmful and ensuring their happiness is important. The elderly don't need to attend classes and all – you can get groups dealing in creative hobbies and interests online as well. When elderly people meet someone who shares the same thoughts or interests as theirs, it sort of makes the older adults feel confident about themselves.
• Sign the Elderly People for a Club
Physical inactivity can also be a reason for loneliness in the elderly as they don’t go out alone, owing to their age. However, being physically active is very important for older adults. It is completely alright if you don’t have the time to take them out for a walk or something; there are a lot of activity clubs and elder care services that arrange various activities and events for the elders. Joining such a club will help in battling loneliness and social isolation as they will meet people of their age, interact, and participate in the conducted activities. Adding to the clubs for physical activities, there are also various spiritual clubs, reading clubs, and so on.
Apart from these, you can also get a pet for older adults but that depends on whether they would like to keep a pet or not. If you live with elderly people, you can try shifting to a society or communities where the population of senior citizens is more. This way, they all will get to interact with each other and loneliness and social isolation in elderly and senior citizens will go away.
We, at Emoha, put in our best efforts to make sure that the older adults of our country are living a hassle-free life. Right from taking care of the health emergencies to helping them with their daily chores, our team of dedicated professionals assist elderly people in whatever they wish to do. For us, it is always #EldersFirst