In today’s world, catching up with your friends and family is simple–in a heartbeat, with just the click of a mouse, we connect. We can “be” with just about anyone with little effort. But for older adults, keeping in touch with loved ones or old friends online just isn’t enough. As you age, intentional and personal interaction with other people is a need that must be met.
Why Is Loneliness More Common for Older Adults?
Every year of life brings about change. As we age, change becomes harder–changes seem scary and more challenging to face. One of the main changes in older adults is the decline of a social network. Friends and loved ones move or pass away and they are left with fewer and fewer close friends and people with whom to confide in and share life.
Older adults are also faced with declining health that may limit or completely prevent getting out of the house to visit family and friends. Oftentimes, older adults are self-conscious about health issues or limitations which also deters socialization.
The Dangers of Loneliness for Older Adults
Loneliness is often overlooked or ignored by family and caregivers, and older adults may even think they’re fine being “alone.” Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing and should not be confused. There is an array of ways loneliness negatively affects older adults.
- Loneliness Leads to Depression. Loneliness is subjective. It is a “feeling” of being alone and doesn’t always mean someone isn’t surrounded by people and activities. Feelings of loneliness such as sadness, isolation, and withdrawal precede the more serious diagnosis of depression, which share many of the same signs and symptoms.
- Loneliness Is Bad for Physical Health. Loneliness not only affects emotional and mental health, it also takes a toll on physical health. The Journal of the American Medical Association compiled the results of numerous studies and found that there is a definite link between loneliness in older adults and fatal heart disease and coronary disease. Not to mention other major chronic health issues such as dementia, lung disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and impaired mobility.
- Loneliness Is Contagious. As stated by John T. Cacioppo and Louise C. Hawkley at the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, University of Chicago, “Loneliness not only spreads from person to person within a social network, but it reduces the ties of these individuals to others within the network.” When one person is lonely they are more likely to spread that feeling through negative social interaction with others.
- Loneliness Kills. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults aged 52 and older. Another study by the University of California, San Francisco, followed a group of seniors for six years and found that by the end of the study period, 22.8% of all the older adults who had reported feeling isolated or lonely had died.
How to Fight Loneliness as You Age
As you can see, loneliness is a real danger for older adults. And it is proven that loneliness is more affected by the quality of the interactions with others, rather than the quantity.
Being intentional and proactive to guard against loneliness is critical in improving the quality of life. Here are a few ways to fight loneliness as you age:
- Take up a hobby.
- Make friends where you live.
- Share stories and memories with those around you.
- Increase your physical activity.
- Meditate, pray or consider counseling.
The Traditions Difference
Traditions Senior Living believes in fighting loneliness by cultivating healthy social interaction between residents in our communities. We provide opportunities for residents to meet each other and build quality friendships by hosting various events and simply opening up lines of communication in everyday activates, like providing mealtime “chit chat” cards for the purpose of initiating and stimulating conversation.