A basic human emotion is loneliness. It can strike any person, at any age, for various reasons. Sometimes it seems to strike for no reason at all. One of the main reasons for loneliness amongst seniors is isolation. Studies have shown that isolated seniors are in fact twice as likely to die earlier than those who are not isolated. Some studies have shown that loneliness can be comparable to smoking in terms of mortality rates, and twice as dangerous as obesity. Studies have revealed that about 40 percent of adults admit to feeling lonely. If nothing is done, their health will deteriorate.
The long term effects of isolation and loneliness are not proven, however scientists do suspect that the immune system is affected and inflammation can be increased. It is believed that loneliness can lead to a variety of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and more.
Unfortunately, the older a person is, the more difficult it may be for them to get out and form new relationships.. However, it is important to help seniors maintain social circles because if isolation can be reduced, so can loneliness.
A common misconception, or mistake made by loved ones and caregivers, is that a senior’s social needs are the same as their own. Sometimes, a person actually requires a certain amount of isolation in order to maintain maximum happiness. Being forced into social situations by others, or having their personal space invaded can be just as detrimental as prolonged isolation. Seniors may prefer a short visit over extended company. The key is to listen to a senior, and take heed of what they say.
It’s easy to guess the causes of loneliness for seniors. Spouses and friends die, children grow up and lead their own lives. Social contact fades, and it becomes difficult to keep up appearances as well as relationships. In other cases, 24 hour care for an elderly spouse suffering from Alzheimer’s or other disease can consume one’s life completely and lead to isolation and depression.
Understanding the causes of isolation in seniors is the most important way to understand how to prevent it. Everyone is different, and so are the solutions:
- Perhaps a pet can help a lonely senior; pet therapy can be extremely beneficial. It can lower blood pressure and boost memory.
- Helping a senior to go for a ride to a friend’s house can lift his or her spirits.
- Sitting with them and playing cards can do them a world of good.
- Visiting with a senior and asking about their lives, making them feel important is a great thing to do.
- Sitting with them and holding their hand while watching TV or listening to music is powerful – it’s the power of human touch.
Sit down and talk with a senior and figure out what they need, even if it means they don’t need much at all.