It is probably not news to you that America is an aging nation. The implications for economic growth and the labor force are often discussed in financial headlines. Texas is no exception – the 2010 census showed roughly 15% of the population in the state to be 60 or older. That demographic is projected by 2050 to more than triple. However, it is important not to be blinded by the facts and figures and look at how aging personally impacts senior citizens. “Social isolation” is the term used to describe a state of diminished contact -or a lack of all contact- between a person and society. Social isolation is often a hallmark of those who are aging.
It has been scientifically proven that a strong social network and meaningful relationships with other people are critical to wellbeing and to good physical health. The social network of seniors can be curtailed by mobility challenges, limited financial savings, family moves, and the death of family members. Those suffering from social isolation are at an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, infectious illnesses, and they tend to be less effective with how they respond to stress.
How Social Isolation Can Creep Up on You
It can be easy for seniors to become socially isolated without recognizing the specter of its grip. Social isolation does not happen quickly. It typically involves a slow emergence of contributory factors. For example, when the children of a senior move to a new city for work, a quick, daily visit is no longer possible. Although an every day phone call can be a great boost, it doesn’t replace face-to-face contact.
Meantime, the vision, hearing, and muscle impairments which come with aging can put seniors at a higher risk of falls, which can cause a greater reluctance to leave the safety of home. A sedentary lifestyle compromises access to a social network, impedes medical appointments, grocery shopping, and light exercise. All of this can lead to social isolation.
Retirement from work can be viewed as a tremendous milestone in life. But the newfound wealth of free time can actually end up negatively impacting a senior, if the free time is not properly managed. That’s because their guaranteed daily source of social interaction disappears, along with their long held purpose for getting out of bed in the morning. Often, the environmental contributors which lead to social isolation can be combatted, if a senior moves to a retirement community or if they receive in-home care from a reputable provider.
Make a Change: Reversing Social Isolation
Here are 5 recommended tips for you to help seniors combat the rigors of social isolation.
- Make time each day to call a friend or relative who you think may be lonely.
- Join outreach groups which help reduce the impact of social isolation in your community.
- Encourage seniors to participate in local social clubs and to take part in light exercise.
- Consider paid home care visits for seniors who need personal help or find it hard to leave their own homes.
- Consider, for the senior, the adoption of a low-maintenance pet, which can help to reduce feelings of loneliness.
Ensuring seniors lead a balanced, social life helps to keep them physically and mentally healthy – and generally speaking- affords them the ability to stay longer in their own homes and communities.
Article Written by Sally Writes, Guest Contributor to Pride PHC
Photo Image Courtesy: