As your loved one ages, your concern for his or her physical safety and wellness may increase.
Whether it be preventing falls or ensuring that your loved one has a balanced diet, there are plenty of factors that affect his or her health.
One factor that has more impact than you may think is senior isolation and loneliness.
Aside from negatively affecting one’s mental well-being, senior isolation has also been linked to a decline in physical health.
Unfortunately, as people age, their likelihood of living alone only increases.
Whether it be the passing of friends and spouses, retirement, or an increasing lack of mobility, there are a variety of reasons why your parent may be at risk for loneliness.
Here are four surprising facts about senior isolation that demonstrate how detrimental living alone can be–even with hired help or family members that make regular visits.
#1: Suffering from loneliness elevates one’s risk of developing dementia.
From quickly recalling the names of friends from college to remembering where we’ve placed our reading glasses, losing long- and short-term memory is often a natural part of aging.
However, there’s a point where memory loss becomes more of a serious matter.
According to a Dutch study that appears in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, those who suffer from loneliness have a 64% greater risk of developing dementia.
A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s often results in a higher safety risk and lower quality of life in general.
Being in the company of others is critical when it comes to preserving life memories, personality, and other important characteristics that dementia can deteriorate.
#2: Illnesses and conditions that increase mortality are linked to senior isolation.
Taking vitamins, following a healthy diet, and incorporating a healthy dose of physical exercise in a daily routine may not be enough if your loved one is living alone.
Environment and opportunities for social engagement are just as important when it comes to preventing disease and illness.
According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, social isolation has been linked to a higher risk of mortality in adults ages 52 and up.
Often, this is due to a correlation between social isolation and serious illnesses–such as chronic lung disease, arthritis, impaired mobility, and depression.
In the interest of maintaining optimal health and a longer lifespan, it’s important to create conditions for social engagement and interactions.
Living among others and having easy opportunities to participate in social activities make it easy to ward off loneliness and stay healthy.
#3: People who are socially isolated or lonely are more likely to report risky health behaviors.
Preparing meals and conducting other activities of daily living are an important aspect of living a high-quality and healthy life.
The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing found that people who are socially isolated or lonely are more likely to engage in behaviors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking.
On the other hand, when people live in a community with lots of activity, they are more likely to follow healthy habits–especially when meals are prepared by others and exercise programs are just a few steps away.
#4: Socially isolated seniors are more pessimistic about the future.
Friends, family members, and acquaintances we interact with on a regular basis can easily be taken for granted.
When our social interactions are diminished, our quality of life decreases, and so does our outlook on life.
The National Council on Aging has found that seniors experiencing social isolation are “More likely to predict their quality of life will get worse over the next 5-10 years, are more concerned about needing help from community programs as they get older, and are more likely to express concerns about aging in place.”
Finding aging solutions that enable seniors to easily access a social community of peers ensures that their quality of life will only improve as time passes.
One may think that regular visits from family or caregivers at home will suffice and an assisted living community isn’t necessary, but evidence suggests otherwise.
According to T. Byram Karasu, MD, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, even when a senior is being taken care of by family caregivers, there is often little attention paid to deep, engaging communication between a senior and the rest of the family.
Caregivers are often so busy and overwhelmed from their daily responsibilities that they don’t have the capacity to meet a senior’s emotional and social needs.
At The Ashford communities, residents have numerous opportunities to engage with others.
Whether it be joining their fellow residents for an exercise class or engaging in meaningful conversation with his or her caregiver over lunch, there’s minimized risk of senior isolation.