In this blog post we will cover senior isolation, which is one of the biggest threats to the health of America’s seniors. And, while it’s one of the biggest threats, it remains among the most difficult to realize.  Studies have shown that isolated seniors have a higher risk of high blood pressure, depression, dementia, malnutrition and other health issues. It’s a health risk that’s not often discussed, but at least a quarter of seniors over the age of 65 live with it.  The devastating effects can be felt physically, mentally, and emotionally. Sunflower Home Health wants to raise awareness about this issue and let you know that you and your family are not alone in fighting senior isolation.

According to Aging Care, some 18 percent of adults older than 65 in the U.S. live alone, and 43 percent report feeling lonely on a regular basis.  Sadly, feeling lonely can be the least of their concerns. Other things that isolated seniors worry about include:

  • Being cut off from benefits and resources in which they are eligible. For example, isolated adults may be unable to visit their local Social Security office to ensure they are receiving their proper benefits, or they may be less likely to reach out for participation in beneficial programs like Meals on Wheels.
  • They may not receive proper medical attention in a timely manner, causing a seemingly minor injury or illness to worsen without necessary care.
  • More likely to engage in risky behavior like tobacco use and are more vulnerable to elder abuse. Studies have even shown that loneliness and isolation carry a higher overall risk of mortality for both men and women age 52 and over.

A person that reaches the age of 65 has a life expectancy of 20 additional years, meaning isolation has the potential to affect someone for years to come. As the Baby Boomer generation ages into retirement, a record number of Americans will be living in their golden years.  According to census.gov, the number of Americans age 65 and over is expected to double between 2012 and 2050, meaning the number of isolated seniors left at risk will also increase.

While it’s important to understand everything we’ve mentioned so far, it’s equally as important to understand what causes senior isolation and how you can avoid it happening to your loved ones. There are many things that can lead to a senior becoming isolated, including:

  • Living far away from siblings or adult children, making it difficult to maintain consistent contact.
  • Spouses and friends begin to pass away as an adult ages, causing their inner circle shrinks as they get older.
  • Hobbies and interests help an adult stay socially engaged with others. As people age, they may lose the ability to remain as physically or mentally active as they once were and can fall out of touch with activities they’ve enjoyed for years.
  • Seniors may become less mobile as they age. They may stop driving and may not be able to walk long distances. A more stationary lifestyle then gives way to a more isolated one.
  • The 21st century has seen somewhat of a breakdown of family relationships as the divorce rate for US adults ages 50 and over has roughly doubled since the 1990’s. This has resulted in many seniors living alone, further cut off from family members and increasingly isolated.
  • The number of adults that have never married has reached an all-time high, meaning more and more adults are entering their senior years without a companion at home.
  • Retirement communities are a great way for seniors to avoid feeling isolated, but they are expensive. Many seniors living on a fixed income cannot afford to live in a retirement community.

When you sit back and think about yourself and your elderly loved ones, it’s easy to see how even the most social and active seniors are at risk of slipping into isolation. It’s important that you know how to spot the signs of senior isolation and always keep an eye on your older friends and family members, which is why we’ve included the common signs below:

  • Loss of interest in socializing or engaging in interests
  • Dramatic changes in weight or appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lethargy
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Cognitive decline
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs
  • Self-loathing

So how can you avoid letting your loved ones become an isolated senior? Becoming more socially active is an obvious solution, but you might be wondering what kind of options seniors have, especially those who are far away from family. We’ve compiled a list of options below:

  • Volunteering is a great way for seniors to become socially engaged while also making a difference in the community. Walking dogs at the local animal shelter, serving meals at church or a soup kitchen or tutoring young school children are a few options.
  • It’s common for community centers, colleges and libraries to offer low cost and even free classes for older adults in areas such as cooking, writing, art and more. Seniors can meet new people, stimulate their mind and do something fun all at the same time.
  • Group exercising funs allow seniors to remain active and help them feel more comfortable. Not only can isolated seniors interact with people their age, but this also brings physical, mental and emotional benefits along with it.
  • Bridge clubs, book clubs and knitting clubs are just some of the organized social clubs that many seniors take part in as a way of using a common interest to connect with peers.
  • Finding a new hobby. From bowling to coin collecting, there are many ways to connect with others. Pick up a new hobby or rediscover an old one, and you’ll open yourself up to a community of like-minded people.
  • A pet can be a senior’s best friend and offer companionship that’s tough to match. According to the National Institutes of Health, pet owners were 36 percent less likely to report feeling lonely.

If you have any questions about senior isolation, please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form on our website and reach out or give us a call at your local office.  Those numbers are listed below:

  • Charleston – (662) 647-0653
  • Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141
  • Cleveland – (662)756-4676
  • Greenwood – (662) 455-3535
  • Grenada – (662) 294-0726
  • Indianola – (662) 887-1518

At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.

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