In a March 2019 article, Jamie Ducharme of Time magazine dives deep into the rising issue of senior loneliness and social isolation, which has contributed to a range of concerning physical and mental ailments.
According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, an estimated one-third of seniors are lonely. Another study on loneliness of “2,000 Americans ages 50 to 80” by the University of Michigan came to similar conclusions, with 27% reporting feelings of isolation and 30% reporting socialization with “friends, family, or neighbors once a week or less.”
The seniors who reported feeling lonely or isolated also reported having worse physical health than those who felt less/no isolation, which is why it’s important to approach the issue of senior health from a physical, mental, and emotional aspect.
Ducharme continues on to cite Dr. Carla Perissinotto on how to better understand why senior loneliness is on the rise, and what we can do to reverse it. In order to potentially “cure” senior loneliness, we should:
- Distinguish between “actual and desired relationships.” Just because a senior is in the presence of loved ones doesn’t necessarily mean that they are receiving the quality companionship they need.
- Understand the “underlying cause of loneliness.” Loneliness can stem from a variety of issues, ranging from “the death of a spouse” to “medical problems that make it difficult to socialize.”
So, the takeaway issue is that the physical closeness of a senior to their loved ones does not cure loneliness. Rather, engaging in “meaningful social contact” is the best way for seniors and their families to fight feelings of loneliness and social isolation and keep seniors in better physical, mental, and emotional health.
Next time you visit grandma or grandpa, have a meal, play games, or take a walk with them. If you live too far to visit, take the time to have a meaningful conversation with them. Make it interesting by setting up a Caribu call, so beloved seniors in your life can stimulate their own minds and form deeper bonds while reading and drawing with their grandchildren.