How Does Loneliness Affect the Elderly?
Many older adults want to stay in their homes as long as possible. There is an assumption that staying in your home means you are independent, but the reality is it can often lead to loneliness and isolation. The health effects of long-term isolation are measurable and include chronic health conditions, depression, anxiety, dementia, and even premature death. One study reported the negative health effects of long-term isolation are equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Who Is Most At Risk of Senior Isolation?
Loneliness is on the rise overall, but those most affected are individuals 80 years and older according to a 2016 study. Older adults who are most at risk for senior isolation are often:
- Living alone
- Living with untreated hearing loss
- Living with mobility impairments
- No longer driving or have limited access to transportation
- Recently experienced the loss of a spouse, friend, or partner
- Caregivers for others
How Can a Move to Senior Living Help Fight Senior Loneliness?
The best remedy for senior loneliness is staying connected. Staying connected, interacting with others, and remaining socially engaged with friends and your community can help keep fight loneliness and the health risks that are associated with it.
When people move into a senior living community, the older adults often tell us, “I wish I would have moved sooner.” And their family members exclaim, “We’ve seen our loved one blossom in the last few months!”
Reasons why senior living counteracts senior isolation and loneliness:
- Senior living brings people together. Coffee socials, happy hours, and even chatting over lunch helps to grow those meaningful relationships that increase health and longevity.
- Senior living provides opportunities for purposeful engagement in daily life. Our residents like to volunteer, help out their neighbors, and share with friends.
- Senior living offers spiritual programming in the community, and often offers transportation to local services. Research shows that regular attendance at faith-based services (no matter the denomination) improves life expectancy.
- Intergenerational programming brings older adults and young children together to work on projects together, enjoy each other’s company, and learn from each other. The young and the young at heart both have so much wisdom to share.
- Senior living provides regularly scheduled fitness classes to help maintain physical mobility. It’s also an environment where you don’t have to feel judged or insecure about using adaptive devices (like walkers or wheelchairs) you may need to help you stay more independent.
- An accessible van means you can easily get out and about, go shopping, visit restaurants, and more. You stay connected with the community at large, and continue to do the activities you love.
Options and Resources for Next Steps
We invite you to visit one of our Ebenezer communities! Talk with our residents to hear how their health and their lives have changed for the better after moving to senior living.
For more information about loneliness and isolation, the AARP Foundation offers its online resource Connect2Affect. They also provide an online self-assessment to determine your risk factors and tips on how to stay connected.
Resources that informed this article include Government’s Role in Fighting Loneliness by Emily Holland, as published in the Wall Street Journal, and the Blue Zones Power 9 ® by Dan Buettner.