Social isolation and loneliness in senior citizen’s can lead to physical and mental illness. Indeed, seniors become vulnerable to chronic diseases such as cognitive decline, depression, hypertension and heart disease.
Social isolation and loneliness are not one and the same thing. About 28 percent of older adults — that’s 14 million people, in the United States live alone, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS). While many of them are not lonely or socially isolated — some seniors feel isolate despite living among family and friends.
Social Isolation: Health Effects On Seniors
Social isolation leads to physical illness such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and a weakened immune system. It can also cause chronic mental illness such as anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Seniors who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse, separation from friends and family, and retirement, are at particular high risk.
Conversely, people who engage in meaningful, productive activities with others tend to live longer, a sense of purpose. They keep active, take care of themselves, are in better moods, more optimistic and have a sense of purpose. They also show good cognitive function.
Social isolation can be caused by a variety of factors For example, poor health and well-being. Examples are:
- impaired hearing
- loss of full mobility
- physical weakness
Another area that has a negative affect is life transitions, roll loss or change. Examples here would be:
- loss of spouse
- becoming a caregiver
Finally, social barriers also can play a role towards increasing the social isolation of senior citizens. Examples here are:
- a lack of opportunities in the community for seniors to make a contribution
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), social isolation among senior citizens is a growing health epidemic in the United States. The statistics are grim.
More than 14 million adults, aged 50 and older are affected by isolation. Just to give you an idea — the health risks are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!