How Senior Loneliness is Leading to Premature Death and How to Stop it
Recognizing if you or your loved one is experiencing senior loneliness and isolation is crucial to ensuring good quality of life and longevity. According to a Brigham Young University study, loneliness can be as deadly as smoking or obesity.
Seniors are at the highest risk for loneliness and isolation due to factors like living alone, the loss of a spouse, and confinement to their home due to injury or illness. A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) notes that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered socially isolated.
Senior loneliness and isolation is not something to take lightly. It can’t be fixed with just a day out at the mall. According to the NASEM report, the loneliness and isolation felt by most seniors can actually lead to certain health problems like dementia, anxiety, and depression. NASEM even reported that senior loneliness and isolation have even been linked to premature death.
Senior loneliness and isolation can also lead to:
- Bad habits, like smoking and drinking
- Elder abuse: The National Center on Elder Abuse notes that seniors can fall prey to things like scammers and financial abuse during increased isolation
How to combat it
Talk with your doctor or urge your loved one to have a conversation with their healthcare provider. Doctors will have access to resources throughout the community that could help. One great resource is The National Council on Aging (NCA). NCA provides information on senior programs that assist with healthy aging and financial security. AARP provides great resources for improving senior quality of life and pinpointing helpful programs in your area. Eldercare Locator is another one of our favorites. It’s a free service that makes it easy for seniors to find reliable services like transportation and caregivers in their area.
Make a plan. Sit down with yourself and take a look at your week. Aside from the routine doctor appointments or haircuts, how can you go about infusing fun and interest into your week?
- Start out with something simple, like opting to turn on a new genre of music you haven’t listened to before while preparing your meals.
- Get outside! Just 10 minutes of sunshine can change your mood. Take a lap or two from your house to your mailbox or opt for a daily 30-minute walk. Spice it up and pick a new podcast or even an audiobook to listen to on your stroll.
- Check out your town’s community calendar, usually located on your town’s website, and pick one event a week to attend. Maybe it’s a talk a local artist is giving at the community center or an arts and crafts fair at the local high school. Either way, it’s a chance to get to know others in your community and gives you an opportunity to be a part of something great.
- Check your people-meter. How long has it been since you’ve seen other people, had a conversation with a person or had any sort of human interaction? If it’s more than two days then it’s time to schedule some people-time into your week. Grab a socially-distance cup of coffee with a friend, video chat with your grandkids, or invite a loved one over for some baking fun.
- Volunteering has been shown to give people a sense of purpose. Plus, it gives you a chance to interact with people from all walks of life and explore your passions. volunteermatch.org allows you to search for volunteer opportunities in your area.
Seniors are at the highest risk for loneliness and isolation. And because the combination of these two things can lead to a slew of chronic diseases and even premature death, the stakes are high. Be sure to sit down and evaluate what you’re feeling. Don’t let loneliness and isolation consume you. Organizing fun, interest, enjoyment, and learning into your week can be the key to transforming your mental and physical health and combating senior loneliness and isolation.