For various reasons many in our senior years face the difficult times of living alone. According to US census data 2010 about 28% (12.5 million) of no-institutionalized senior loved ones live alone (8.8 million women, 3.8 million men). Almost half of older women (46%) aged above 75 live alone. This is a severe problem almost reaching the stature of an epidemic.
However, we all know that loneliness and isolation can never be good for our mental and physical health. It is often the case that most of us know but do not acknowledge due to family circumstances or other reasons. But it is high time we acknowledged the issue and took necessary steps.
Loneliness and isolation are not only dangerous in senior years but also may prove to be devastating in all the phases of our life. A recent study conducted by the Brigham Young University in Utah found out that isolation and loneliness can have negative effects on health and wellbeing as adverse as obesity.
The researchers observed almost 35 years of studies and have concluded that living alone and isolation can dramatically decrease lifespan. The study’s lead author Julianne Holt-Lunstad said in a statement, “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously, the effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously.”
After conducting their thorough analysis on data collected from more than 3 million people they reached the conclusion that isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of early death up to 32%.
Another study conducted by the University of Chicago also found out some very disturbing link between physical health conditions and loneliness. The study pointed out that isolation and loneliness can increase the level of your stress hormone cortisol which leads to a significant increase in the chances of heart diseases and strokes. This condition can even multiply in effects in senior years. The effects of loneliness on longevity has been shown as similar to the effects of poverty, in this study. Apart from the physical effects the mental and emotional health of our loved seniors also debilitates a lot due to loneliness and isolation.
So, this is an eye opener. As more and more seniors are being pushed into living alone now a days, due to the changing social dynamics and as the 'graying of America' speeds up, the country may experience an epidemic of isolation in senior years. To deal with this serious situation, we have to implement pro-active senior care programs and services like the one from Comfort Keepers, termed as the Interactive Caregiving approach.
Interactive Caregiving from Comfort Keepers adopts a proactive attitude towards senior engagement in social activities along with involving them in their own care receiving processes. Through these interactive techniques even if the senior loved one is out of sync and connection due to depression or other issues it is possible to get them back on track to engage with people.
However, we need more such facilities made available to our seniors in order to deal with the ever-growing isolation epidemic in senior years.