Understanding Senior Loneliness

Apr 10th, 2020 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Physical and Social Isolation

Why do seniors experience loneliness? Some (perhaps most) of us consider this a ‘no brainer’. That is, it’s pretty obvious. People, seniors included, feel lonely because many of us spend so much time alone. Duh.

But let’s start peeling off the layers and see what we can discover about loneliness and it’s root cause, social isolation. We need to start from this simple explanation to accurately evaluate and understand the many facets of senior loneliness. So we begin with this fact: Senior Citizens experience social isolation and the resulting loneliness at a much higher rate than the general population. It is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The National Council on Aging reports that “…one in six seniors living alone in the United States faces physical, cultural, and/or geographical barriers that isolate them from their peers and communities.”

Social isolation is the foundational issue, and is a fact of life for a fourth to a third of seniors. Isolation and loneliness are fed by increasingly limited mobility (physical barrier) and family dispersement (cultural/geographical barrier). When mobility becomes more limited, the senior, by default, has less opportunity to be with family and friends. And with many families living miles from their elderly loved ones, the frequency of being together lessens. People become lonely when they spend too much time alone (isolation), and seniors experience this much more than younger people.

Dangers of Social Isolation

Social isolation produces many issues for seniors that can be seriously problemmatic. It’s more than just feeling lonely, not valued, isolated, not cared for. A ton of research has been done on the lives of seniors over the past few decades, and we have discovered a fact that is very troublesome. Seniors who live in emotionally and physically isolated circumstances experience a higher risk of mortality, chronic illness, cognitive decline/dementia and a myriad of other health issues. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) discusses these issues in detail, stating “For most older adults, good health ensures independence, security, and productivity as they age.” The converse of that is what troubles many seniors; risks of developing poor health issues increase as one ages, which interferes with being able to live happily and productively, not feeling lonely.

Loneliness needs to be addressed if we are to assist seniors to live happy and fulfilling lives. It’s more than ‘just a feeling’… it produces very real and potentially life-threatening health problems. We need to be serious about addressing social isolation and loneliness in our seniors.

SCJ will be looking at this issue over the next several posts. We invite your comments!

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