A report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine (NASEM) says that one-third of adults 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered socially isolated.
The first step to combating social isolation is to understand if you are at risk. AARP has put together a great resource to understand your risk level better. Take the three-minute assessment: Are You Affected By Social Isolation
What Senior Isolation Can Lead To
A 2020 study completed by the CDC shows an unfortunate trend among older Americans.
- Heart failure patients have a four times greater risk of death due to loneliness, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
- Social isolation was associated with roughly a 50% increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships were tied to a 32% increased risk of stroke and 29% increased risk of heart disease.
- Loneliness was associated with higher rates of anxiety, suicide, and depression.
Researchers have also found that loneliness is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Overall senior citizens need more interaction. Fortunately, many resources can help with this.
What Can You Do If You Are Experiencing Loneliness?
Technology has advanced leaps and bounds over the years. There are many ways to connect with friends, family members, and loved ones without even being in the same state or country. The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults has compiled a great list of ways to create connections using technology. This list consists of simple but powerful suggestions like using Facetime or Zoom to connect with loved ones and friends.
It is a great idea to also look into easy-to-use cell phones and tablets that have access to brain games. This is an easy yet effective way to keep advancing and learning new technology.
Learn & Explore
A study conducted at the University of Texas, Dallas, by Neuroscientists found that seniors who picked up a new skill that is mentally challenging had a long-lasting increase in their memory skills. These can be hobbies like learning technology, quilting, or a new musical instrument. The research shows these skills can strengthen your brain and memory.
Learning and exploring new things can help fight against cognitive decline. There are many free resources for seniors who are curious and want to learn new things.
Staying active is great for everyone, and seniors are no different. There are many resources that can teach you how much exercise is needed. A simple but effective exercise is getting your heart rate up. A fast walk or a light jog can go a long way for your health.
The seven best exercises for seniors will help even beginners get started.
Meeting people is not always an easy task. Fortunately, there are many ready-made organizations and groups that can help you. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has put together a list of resources to help seniors connect.
There are many volunteer opportunities for seniors, including helping at a local library to delivering a hot meal. Getting involved helps seniors connect with the communities that they live in.
The Americorp Seniors program allows elderly volunteers to decide how they would like to give back. This could be helping a struggling child learn how to read or delivering groceries to a neighbor in need. These are just a few of the options that are possible when volunteering to help your community.
Organizations That Can Help
Here is a list of helpful senior organizations.
AARP: This organization helps deliver valuable information to seniors to improve their quality of life. They champion positive social change and deliver value through advocacy, information, and service.
Area Agencies On Aging: This organization represents 622 area agencies on aging. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s primary mission is to build the capacity of our members so they can help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
Eldercare Locator: This organization links those in need with assistance from local agencies, the state, and community-based organizations that serve older adults and caretakers. The Eldercare Locator is available to point people in the right direction for services such as meals, home care, transportation, caregiver training, education, or a well-deserved break from caregiver responsibilities.
National Council On Aging: The NCOA will assist with healthy living, prevention, physical health, behavioral health, aging mastery, financial security, money management, job training, retirement planning, and benefits enrollment. The mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those struggling.
National Institute On Aging: The NIA has created helpful resources for seniors who are isolated or are experiencing loneliness. Social isolation and loneliness can be harmful to older adults’ physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional health. The National Institute on Aging developed an outreach toolkit to help reduce social isolation and loneliness.