Health Risks for Lonely Seniors

Apr 13th, 2020 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

In this time of social isolation due to COVID19, seniors may find themselves spending too many hours alone and lonely. To be sure, time alone does not necessarily mean one is lonely; we can be lonely in a crowd as well as just being alone. The issue is perceived loneliness, that is, if a senior feels or believes they are lonely, they are.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is an arm of the National Institute of Health (NIH), and NIA has looked at this issue for a number of years. The results of their research are troubling for many seniors; their website says thisResearch has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressureheart diseaseobesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depressioncognitive declineAlzheimer’s disease, and even death.”

A Place for Mom is another organization offering excellent information on the effects of isolation and loneliness on the aging population. Take a look at their article here.

Loneliness Effect on Health

Research has told us that our emotional and psychological lives are inextricably connected to our physical existence. Some of that connection we understand and accept and some of it we don’t. Failure to thrive syndrome is well-known and researched in infants. One of the causes for babies is isolation from caregivers. Seniors can also experience ‘failure to thrive’ and research clearly tells us it affects our physical lives in a myriad of ways, from chronic disease to death.

Social isolation and loneliness is especially troublesome for seniors in the midst of a pandemic such as COVID19. We must be socially isolated to protect ourselves and others from transmitting the virus. The imperative becomes looking at how we can address necessary isolation without contributing to increased illness in senior citizens.

Help Seniors Feel Less Isolated and Lonely

Just as each and every person around the planet needs to take personal responsibility for not transmitting the virus, we also must take personal responsibility for being creative in finding ways to stay connected with the seniors in their/our lives.

I have three sisters, and we all are senior citizens. Two of us talked with one of our sisters yesterday; she lives out of state, in assisted living, and she is battling Alzheimer’s. She is feeling very lonely and confused about why she can’t go out and why her son can’t visit her. Phone calls from her three sisters are critical to her well-being, and we try to make frequent calls to, at least temporarily, relieve her loneliness. We love her and it’s just what we want to do to try to help.

Phone calls, virtual visits on video, in-person visits honoring social distancing protocol, cards and letters, and any other activity you can think of are all ways to stay in touch with seniors during this difficult time. We all have a responsibility to make the effort. Many of us are seniors who appreciate the efforts of younger generations.

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  1. […] all know, or have been learning about, the close relationship between physical health and mental health. We know good physical health, including exercising is essential to maintain good mental health. […]

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