Senior Citizens and Social Isolation

Apr 1st, 2020 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Loneliness and Isolation Among Seniors

Eight years ago, a University of California San Francisco study revealed more than 40 per cent of seniors experience lonelinsss and a sense of isolation. As a result, they discovered these lonely seniors exhibited more health problems and even death.

Forty per cent is a lot of people. And now, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, seniors living along experience even more isolation than before the virus began spreading. We are ordered to stay home by local and state governments. We can’t go out and mix with people. We can’t see friends and family. We can only stay home. Alone.

Many facets comprise the isolation issue for seniors. They include

  • causes of social isolation among seniors
  • isolation and functional decline
  • isolation and death
  • loneliness vs depression
  • lonely without living/being alone

Different Kinds of Loneliness

The most obvious kind of loneliness is physically-based, a result of social isolation. Many seniors are socially isolated because they live alone and their daily routines do not include much (if any) interaction with other people. Loneliness can be the result.

By 2050, the Baby Boomer population in the United States will have risen to over 88 million people; we will have millions of people over 60, and senior isolation and loneliness will only have gotten worse if we don’t address it now.

A friend, in her mid-70s, experiences this kind of isolation: Her husband died a few years back. Her family lives far enough away that they cannot visit with any frequency. She is somewhat timid, so she isn’t comfortable asking friends to spend time with her. She spends most of her time totally alone in her home. And now that we are all ordered to stay home and away from people, the sense of separation and isolation from her community is exacerbated. When I told her I was writing this article, she asked me to find a solution to her loneliness.

Some Suggestions

I talked with my somewhat timid friend about her loneliness and asked her what it would take for her to let friends and family know she felt socially isolated. She decided she needed to be more assertive, and vowed to work on that. Good on her!

Another option is for those of you reading this who are under 60 to recognize someday you will likely be over 60, and senior citizen health issues show up while you aren’t looking. You will be here someday, if you live long enough, and you probably will. Loneliness settles upon you without being announced. You just find it in your life unexpectedly, and then either have to live with it or try to find some way to become less isolated and more connected with your community, friends, and family.

If you are under 60, I suggest you make an effort to reach out to your senior citizen friends/family (those over 60) and offer contact and activities with them that might help ease their social isolation. Not every senior experiences this, so be sensitive to each individual’s life. But reaching out and being ‘there’ makes a big difference for a lonely, and otherwise healthy, senior.

Over the next several days, SCJ will offer information and potential action guidelines for seniors (and their friends and family) experiencing loneliness/social isolation. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we can always talk about options.

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  1. […] isolation and loneliness, and the effects these phenomena have on seniors. SCJ already looked at kinds and causes of social isolation, an overview of the dangers of loneliness and an overview of the health risks of senior isolation. […]

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