Why Senior Isolation is a Health Problem

Posted on 08/06/2021

Senior citizens are suffering from social isolation at an increased pace due to health concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Senior social isolation can have a negative effect on both the quality of life for your elder relatives, but also their mental and physical health. Keep reading more to learn about the effects of social isolation on the senior population and how to help someone who is struggling.

How Senior Social Isolation is Risky for Seniors

Living in smaller family units or by ourselves is a relatively new concept compared against human history. We’re genetically wired to need social interaction with others, even if we’re considered an introvert. Because of this, missing social engagement can have consequences on our mental health. In fact, a recent study showed that social isolation can be as deadly as obesity and even smoking. Existing conditions caused by a sedentary lifestyle can worsen, as well as the level of cognitive function in seniors.

Senior social isolation can lead to loneliness, and loneliness can lead to higher stress levels. Researchers have noted elevated blood pressure in adults who report they feel lonely. This is the opposite of how you should feel in retirement; you should be enjoying yourself and spending time doing what you want.

Lonely seniors are also more likely to have an increase in unhealthy lifestyle choices. Senior social isolation can lead to increased smoking, drinking, and time spent just lounging around. Regular physical activity is important to maintaining mobility and a positive outlook. Spending time with others can have a surprising effect on wellness. Without even discussing the topics, those who spend time with others usually also eat better and spend time on physical fitness. Looking for an easy way to get all three? Luxury senior living communities provide plenty of options for social engagement, as well as fitness classes and gourmet meals that are also healthy.

In addition to the physical aspects listed above, senior social isolation has also been shown to increase the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The research shows Alzheimer’s progresses twice as fast in patients who are isolated than those who have regular interaction in their lives. The cognitive decline is likely due to fewer opportunities for mental stimulation. Seniors who are socially isolated are less likely to report any symptoms of cognitive decline, which can lead to a delay in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. This gives doctors less opportunity to slow down the progress of the disease.

Elder abuse is unfortunately all too common in our country, and seniors that are socially isolated are more likely to suffer from fraud, financial abuse, and even neglect. Without a trusted ally around to discuss what they’re experiencing, these cases are unlikely to be reported.

Positivity and negativity can also be impacted by senior social isolation. Seniors who experience loneliness can be more prone to a negative outlook on their life, including predicting a decline in their health in the next 10 years. In addition, as retirees age, they’re more likely to reach out to community programs for help, reports the National Council on Aging.

Upgrading from a socially isolated home to an active living community for retirees provides plenty of social engagement opportunities, regardless of if you’re in independent living or need some help with day-to-day tasks. Go to social events and happy hours, or meet like-minded individuals in extended learning classes. The choice is yours.

Those at Risk of Senior Social Isolation

More than six out of ten adults reported a decline in mental or physical health for their senior loved ones during the Coronavirus pandemic, with most also reporting this was due to the isolation factor. Here are the most common activities affected by senior social isolation:

  1. Preventative appointments: Those who are socially isolated, whether pandemic related or not, can put off regular doctor appointments that may help keep them healthy in the long run.
  2. Physical activity: When not engaging with others, seniors may stop going for walks, fitness classes, trips to the pool. These are all important tools for maintaining mobility for longer.
  3. Therapist appointments: Mental health is just as important as physical health, and adults struggling with depression or anxiety may skip helpful therapist appointments.
  4. Caregiver stress: Often, the fewer loved ones to help care for an aging adult, the more likely the caregivers are to suffer health problems from caregiver stress.
  5. Chronic illness support: Suffering from chronic illness can be a mental problem, as well as physical. Support is needed through regular labs, doctor’s appointments, and mental health activities. When these items are postponed, the senior with chronic illness is not managing their illness.
  6. Regular memory care visits: Patients with dementia and other memory-related illnesses benefit from engagement from familiar faces, as well as cognitive and sensory activities for their brain. Skipping regular visits from these familiar faces or not participating in these activities can lead to more struggles down the road.

Luxury retirement living provides many benefits for all residents. There is regular opportunity for social interaction, as well as mental stimulation and physical fitness classes. Those who need a little extra help can enroll in the assisted living services. For patients living with memory-related illnesses, the memory care neighborhoods provide a familiar and safe place to maintain their independence for as long as possible.

What is Driving Seniors to Live Alone?

There are many reasons seniors might be living alone. Some might be due to the pandemic, others may be conditions that existed before the pandemic, and even more might be living alone because of changes made during the pandemic that have lingered. Here are some changes that can unknowingly cause senior isolation.

  1. Neighborhood demographics. For most cities, neighborhoods go through a life cycle with their residents. Neighbors will move out because they’re downsizing, changing jobs, or wanting to be closer to family who have moved. In their place, seniors may find younger families moving into the neighborhood that they have a hard time connecting with.
  2. Economic shifts. Some older neighborhoods are made new again through gentrification. As investors and families find new places to invest, changes they make to homes can increase demand for the area, which results in changing dynamics in the neighborhoods.
  3. The family unit. It’s no secret that families have changed over the last several decades. The definition of a family unit has been shifted, as people hold off on having kids or skip it altogether. In addition, families are living more spread apart – so sons and daughters might not live around the corner for quick visits any longer.
  4. Life changes. Divorce and death can often lead to senior isolation as seniors try to adjust to a new way of life.

Pushing Back on Senior Isolation

Taking the time to talk with your friends and family on a regular basis is important, now more than ever. While in-person visits may not be feasible due to location or health concerns, there are several opportunities to connect face-to-face through video calls. These interactions are important for all seniors to have.

Senior social isolation has become more prevalent since March 2020. While this has some mental and physical health risks, it also has been able to teach us how to incorporate unique solutions to the isolation. Technology makes it possible to do movie nights together through video calls and have ongoing games of Chess or Scrabble on our phones from across the country. In addition, active living communities provide the push needed to stay mentally, physically, and socially stimulated during your residence.

Consider moving your family member into a luxury retirement community with benefits such as gourmet food, transportation services, and great entertainment. The senior in your life can really explore what it means to carpe diem instead of stress about home care and finding the regular visitors they need to keep up their social engagement.

As Baby Boomers get older, the percent of the population in the US over the age of 65 gets larger as well, thanks to advancing medical technology. This means it’s imperative to understand how their mental health is changing and what we can do to help care for them.

LivGenerations Ahwatukee provides a well-rounded approach to senior living with luxury amenities built around the entire senior health package: mental, physical, and social. Set up your visit so you can take a tour, ask questions, and discover why LivGenerations is a new phase of retirement living.