When you think of the word ‘isolation’ what comes to mind? You may picture a remote location. Or perhaps someone separated during a contagious illness. Likely you don’t picture yourself or your senior loved one at home. But you should. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘isolation’ is defined as the condition of being alone and not connected to other things. This is actually more common than you realize and here’s why senior isolation is so dangerous.
The Facts on Senior Isolation
To be clear, senior isolation is not simply loneliness. The AARP Foundation defines loneliness as the feeling or perception of being alone. However, isolation is actually quantifiable by the size of your social network and/or ability to access it. Essentially, you can think of senior isolation as being psychologically and/or physically detached from support groups of family, friends and community. But, is it really that common?
Yes! In fact, isolation affects nearly 1 in 5 seniors according to AARP. Once you realize how much time seniors spend alone you can understand why. The Pew Research Center reports that seniors who live by themselves, on average, spend about 10 and a half hours alone each day. They found that more than a third (37%) of those seniors spend all their measured time alone. But even those who live with someone, other than a spouse, have an average of seven and a half hours of alone time each day.
The Impact on Seniors
The AARP Foundation equates the health risks of prolonged isolation to the dangers of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. More specifically, isolation puts seniors at higher risk for a range of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and even early death.
Who’s at Risk for Senior Isolation?
Senior isolation can happen to anyone and it’s rarely caused by one single thing. However, aside from living alone which we mentioned above, these factors can also put you more at risk:
- Hearing and/or vision loss
- Limited mobility
- Lack of transportation or limited options
- Caregiving for someone with a serious condition
- Having a chronic health condition(s)
- Having psychological or cognitive challenges
- Going through a life transition such as retirement or the loss of a spouse
Senior Living Can Help with Isolation
The key in avoiding senior isolation is to stay connected. Sounds simple, but if it truly were the AARP Foundation wouldn’t be calling senior isolation a growing health epidemic. Depending on circumstances, there just may not be as many opportunities to connect when aging at home. On the other hand, senior living can offer you a range of connection and enrichment opportunities right outside your door.
Many senior living communities even have a program director dedicated to filling the monthly calendar with options to fit just about any interest such as classes, clubs, outings, socials, games, education, entertainment and even special events. There are plenty of amenities to enjoy too like beautiful grounds, restaurant-style dining, full-service salon, fitness center and transportation. And even if you’re not one to fill your days with activities you can still have peace of mind that you’re never alone – caring staff, neighbors and friends are always nearby.