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The Dangers of Loneliness and Social Isolation in Senior Adults

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Social circles tend to shrink as we get older. The kids leave home to start their lives and our friends have their own lives to live too. These are just two of the reasons why social isolation and loneliness are so common in older adults. Studies have shown that loneliness can be as deadly as obesity or smoking, with the additional health conditions associated with loneliness making things worse. In this article, we will look at some risks associated with social isolation and loneliness in older adults.

An Increase in Unhealthy Habits

According to the American Psychology Association, social isolation is a precursor to unhealthy habits. Lonely seniors are more likely to drink excessively, smoke, and neglect exercise. Social support can encourage them to live healthier lifestyles, exercise, eat well, and sleep better. It is, therefore, important that families encourage their loved ones to have and keep social connections alive. This can be through encouraging them to visit friends or call them from time to time. Family members can also visit and spend some time with their older loved ones to decrease loneliness.

Loneliness Can Increase the Risk of Alzheimer’s

A study conducted by the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging found that loneliness is a risk factor for memory and cognitive issues, including those caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s. In the study, senior adults who were lonely were twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s and other cognitive conditions and issues.

Memory decline was also faster in these subjects and the progression of these conditions was also faster. One reason for this is that lonely people have less brain stimulation which is required as we age. Additionally, there was a lower probability of their symptoms being reported and the symptoms being diagnosed correctly.

Once diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, memory decline, and cognitive issues, a loved one should receive the care they need. Apart from having a full-time caregiver, family members can also consider assisted living facilities providing memory care services. Skilled nursing and assisted living communities like Parc Provence are a great option as such a community eliminates social isolation and loneliness while providing your loved ones with the care they need.

Stress and Loneliness are Linked

Stress will always follow loneliness. The increased stress levels can lead to additional health issues such as blood pressure and depression. Apart from decreasing the quality of the lives of lonely senior adults, all these conditions combined can cause additional serious complications.

Lonely Seniors are Less Likely to Take Care of Themselves

Lonely seniors are less likely to do what they should as part of taking care of their health and well-being. It is not uncommon for these seniors to ignore eating a balanced diet. This is especially an issue when you consider they likely have decreased appetites and a lower capacity for nutrient absorption.

Other issues that may arise are refusing or forgetting to take medications and not taking care of their hygiene.

Loneliness is a serious issue among seniors, especially those who do not have strong social ties. Senior adults experiencing this should get help or move to assisted living facilities where they will have social connections while receiving the care they need.

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