More and more people are living alone than at any time in recent history. More than fifty percent of those over 75 live by themselves. For adults over fifty, 8 million are affected by isolation. 26% of those over 75 will be at an increased risk of death by living alone. Social isolation in seniors can result in a reduction of their social skills. These seniors participate less in their communities. Many of them develop depression and other mental illnesses.
Social isolation is also a risk factor for abuse of the elderly.Disabled seniors also tend to be isolated more than others, leading to alcohol and drug abuse, unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise.
Some of the factors which increase social isolation are:
- Chronic health problems
- Having no children or family
- A low income
- Lack of transportation
The present generation has had fewer children, leading to a smaller extended family. Also, adults are marrying less now than they once did. Studies have shown that for older adults and seniors, having more family members or close family members decreases the likelihood of death from social isolation. However, the number of friends or close friends makes no difference.
How can we avoid social isolation as we age?
Seniors who have varied interests and lots of hobbies don’t feel the effects of social isolation as much as those with few interests will. Though some interests may lead to more time spent with others, it is the fact that these older adults have a purpose which keeps them healthy.
Have something to love or take care of.
Pets can be a senior’s closest companion. Whether it is a dog, a cat or another animal, having something to take care of and look after helps seniors avoid depression. For some seniors, gardening can be seen the same way.
Isolation can breed loneliness and each of us should try harder to stay in touch with our families and also to cultivate hobbies which keep us busy. To read the full article on social isolation, click here.