Senior Isolation and Loneliness
Ask the Experts by Marian Battersby
Q: My aunt has lived alone for the past couple of years, since being widowed. I have noticed, when visiting, a significant decrease in weight and she appears to be somewhat confused. I am concerned about her frailty.
A: You are right to be concerned about your aunt. She might be one of a growing number of seniors that are suffering from senior isolation.
In the United States, the current growth of the senior population is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million in 2060. Some 18 percent of adults aged 65 and older in the U.S. live alone, and 43 percent report feeling lonely on a regular basis. Isolation can have many effects on the quality of life that aging adults experience.
Social isolation can cause emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. Physical signs may include an increased incidence of heart disease, immune deficiencies, diabetes or obesity. There is an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. An increase in the likelihood of premature mortality occurs by 26 percent.
Social isolation can also make seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse and scams.
Many factors can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness such as no children, children scattered throughout the country(s), being ostracized from their families, and divorce or death of a spouse. Individuals that are caregivers for loved ones suffer the loss of social contact unless they seek respite care.
You can encourage your aunt to become more social and less isolated by finding a sense of purpose. Pursuit of hobbies, book or card clubs, or attending local senior centers provide good social venues. There are many ways to help others by volunteering, even if it is as simple as telephoning shut ins. Help her find transportation by way of the PAAT system, senior center shuttles, family, friends or private hires.
Preventative health is also important and helpful. Encourage regular exercise, doctor visits, and vision/hearing exams. Exercise and weight loss help reduce blood pressure by the same amount that loneliness increases it!
With some family and community involvement for your aunt, you will be able to positively impact her overall health and quality of life.
Marian Battersby is the Franchise Owner of Home Instead Senior Care, an Accredited Non-Medical Home Care Agency located in Grosse Pointe Woods. She is a Certified Senior Advisor and a Certified Dementia Practitioner. Battersby can be reached at 313.647.9682. Home Instead Senior Care is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.
Written February 2020