Several studies have been done on socially isolated seniors and the effect this has on their health. Some even show that social isolation ranks as high as obesity or smoking for shortening a person’s life expectancy. Why is this important? Our population continues to age, more adults and seniors today are faced with social isolation than ever before, and this trend will continue.
Social isolation by definition is simply the state of being alone whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Some of the factors that might put someone at risk of being isolated can include losing a spouse or loved one, transportation issues, disabilities or poor health and reduced social networks. In my experience, majority of the seniors I’ve interacted with did not realize they were socially isolated from others. Most people prefer to stay comfortable within their routines and do not want to feel like they are burdening anyone.
A better awareness is needed in addressing social isolation and the effects this can have on our seniors. There are many solutions to help someone who may be socially isolated. Here are the top five that I would recommend starting with:
- Reminisce – This is at the top of my list because this is something I truly enjoy doing with anyone I come in contact with. Taking a few extra minutes to talk with a neighbor or even a stranger to show interest in their life or their experiences can go a long way. More often than not we tend to forget what an individual accomplished in their lifetime. You might be surprised at what you learn.
- Say Hello – If you see a neighbor or if you see someone sitting by themselves somewhere simply stop casually and say hello. The recognition will almost always be well received.
- Encourage religious seniors to continue attending their place of worship – Seniors who regularly attend weekly religious services have been shown to have longer life expectancies than those who have less frequent attendance. The weekly interaction is beneficial to those who are able to attend. Find out if you’re the senior’s church offers a shuttle service to and from the church.
- Offer transportation solutions – Transportation continues to be a major factor in social isolation. If this is the case for someone you know may be isolated, let them know that many cities and counties offer transportation programs (sometimes at a very low cost or even free) if scheduled in advance. You can research this through a local office on aging if available in your area.
- Ask for help – One of the best ways to help someone feel better about themselves (and also less depressed) is to allow them to be useful. If there’s something simple that a loved one can help you with this can promote a sense of purpose and overall positive mood for them (and yourself).
For more information or solutions for your loved one please continue to visit our blog.
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Written by Jeremy Painter – Clinical Informatics Educator