A little alone time can be good for the soul, but if you’re noticing that your older loved one seems to rarely leave their house or constantly refuses social invitations, it might be time to determine why. Isolation in seniors can pose a serious hazard to health and wellbeing.
Isolation in seniors: bad for many reasons
Loneliness, and even the perception of loneliness, can increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and more. In fact, research is confirming that it also can be as bad for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Obviously if you noticed your mom or dad suddenly smoking incessantly, you’d take action. It’s the same with isolation. Sometimes an older adult who previously was quite social and welcomed invitations from friends and family starts pulling away. They stop going out or connecting with long-time friends. There can be several reasons why. For example:
- They are embarrassed about loss of hearing or vision problems. A senior living at home might not want to be in a social setting where they have to reveal they are having issues, for fear of losing control over their independence.
- They are fearful they will become lost. An older adult who is experiencing some confusion and memory issues might be in the early stages of memory loss. Leaving the house, even if they are arranging transportation or just going a short distance, can be intimidating.
- They have mobility issues and leaving home feels too challenging. Isolation in seniors often can be traced to a fear of falling. Just the thought of navigating a trip to see family or friends might seem overwhelming if a person is anxious about dressing, safely leaving home, arranging transportation, and interacting with others.
There could be other reasons as well. What’s important is to visit with your loved one and talk about what might be holding them back. Letting them know you are simply concerned for their wellbeing goes a long way, so that they feel comfortable revealing any concerns they might have about their own health.
In addition, schedule an appointment with their physician to get more information.
The good news about socialization: it’s an antidote to isolation in seniors
Being around friends, spending time with people you enjoy, knowing someone is eager to greet you each day for a chat—very good medicine for everyone, especially older adults. In fact,
socialization has been shown to be one of the most effective ways for seniors to improve their mental health. And that’s not all. Here are just some reasons why socialization is the perfect antidote to isolation in seniors:
- According to the American Public Health Association, socialization improves mood, memory recall, and is associated with healthy behaviors, including exercise.
- Experts say that certain types of social interactions can affect cognitive health. One study found that cognitive abilities declined 70 percent more slowly in individuals who had frequent social connections, compared to those who had little social contact with others.
- Socialization may improve longevity as it reduces stress and isolation. Many seniors socialize by spending time in group exercise classes — which can provide a number of physical benefits, including the potential to increase lifespan. Exercise also lessens the risk of a variety of chronic health problems like osteoporosis.
- Being around friendly, caring people just feels good! According to Mayo Clinic, adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of depression, high blood pressure, and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI).
Why assisted living could be the perfect choice
Today’s assisted living communities offer vibrant, wellness-oriented settings for enjoying all the benefits of good companionship.
For instance, The Herrick House in Beverly, Massachusetts, is all about respecting personal choices. Residents can enjoy their privacy, relax in their comfortable residences, and be as social as they choose, knowing someone is right next door for conversation, support, and good laughter. And our more intimate size makes it easier for each person to quickly feel part of a loving family.
We invite you to come and see what we mean!