Seniors are prone to becoming isolated especially in times like these. And isolation has serious impacts for senior health over time. This post gives an overview of how isolation and loneliness can impact health and what can be done to combat it.
How Isolation Occurs
Seniors may face isolation due to different factors such as hearing loss, losing friends or family members, chronic illness, and living alone. As this happens, the social network for an older person begins to shrink. A shrinking network of friends combined with fixed budgets, not being able to drive due to illness, physical challenges, or finances all contribute to social isolation.
Health Impacts of Isolation
Social isolation puts seniors at risk of having health challenges, including an increased risk of premature death. Recent studies on the subject have found that isolation is actually the leading cause of early death ahead of obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity.
Poor social relationships due to isolation or loneliness increase risk of stroke and heart disease by 32% and 29% respectively. Social isolation can also lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive decline
- Inflammatory reactions to stress.
Having a stronger social network does reduce stress. The degree of social isolation does dictate the increased risk of health issues seniors may experience.
Combating Social Isolation
The ongoing pandemic presents a type of barrier to socialization. But social engagement is still possible even while taking physical distance into account. Visits from family members, friends, caregivers, and other organizations can still occur as long as everyone takes the appropriate precautions.
Health care providers like doctors, nurses and others can help identify loneliness and isolation in seniors because they go to the doctor more often. By doing this health care providers can make recommendations and arrange for interventions to happen.
Technology is another way to combat isolation. Programs like Zoom have given seniors access to book clubs, family visits, and friends during this time. Technology tutoring is also available for seniors who need it.
Another way to combat isolation is to consider bringing in a companion caregiver in to engage seniors. Companion caregivers offer social engagement, can increase physical activity, and help with things like meal prep. Optimum Senior Care Solutions is ready to help match seniors in Orange County and Newport Beach, CA to companion caregivers. Contact our care team today.