Senior Loneliness: How It Impacts Health, and What to Do About It.
Shrinking social circles, poor health, life changes, and even transportation challenges can mean isolation for older adults. If isolation leads to loneliness, it can have a devastating on health and quality of life. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent social isolation for yourself or the senior in your life.
The Health Risks of Loneliness
You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. Loneliness is the perception of being alone and isolated, and having a feeling of disconnectedness. You may know — or be — one of the 42.6 million older adults who experience this – every day.
This emotional state has physical consequences that can be devastating, especially in seniors:
The Benefits of Staying Connected
If being lonely hurts your quality of life, it stands to reason that being socially connected can improve it. Research backs that up.
According to the Global Council on Brain Health, the body of scientific evidence suggests social engagement can help maintain your thinking skills and slow cognitive decline. Other studies link an active social life with better cardiovascular outcomes and greater immunity to infectious disease, among other health benefits.
Why is that?
Patricia Churchland, a contemporary philosopher who focuses on philosophy and neuroscience, puts it this way: “We long to belong, and belonging and caring anchors our sense of place in the universe.”
When we no longer feel anchored, our sense of self feels threatened. Just like when we feel physically threatened, our bodies respond with stress hormones that can have a cascade of negative effects. When we’re not threatened, our bodies don’t have to send those stress hormones into overdrive.
Social activity keeps you connected. When you belong, you find emotional support — and you know that you matter to others. That goes a long way toward a more positive and healthier life.
Solving the Senior Loneliness Problem
Here are some simple, small steps you can take today to make more meaningful connections with others.
Things you can try:
Loneliness shouldn’t be brushed aside as a normal part of aging. Acknowledge it, then take the first step toward a better — and possibly longer — life.