Living alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be lonely. Just as there is no guarantee that you won’t be if you’re surrounded by others. But loneliness itself can have a detrimental effect on your health, both physically and emotionally, and should not be ignored.
Loneliness is generally defined as having the feeling of being alone. Social isolation is typically having a lack of social connections. While they don’t necessarily cause each other, experiencing one or both can create increased health risks.
There are reasons why experiencing loneliness can become more common with older adults as their situation may create a natural environment where they:
Although each person’s situation can be different, consider the following increased risks often associated with loneliness:
One of the bigger risks to health is social isolation, which can be connected to loneliness. If you don’t have access to others, are unable to get to events or activities or don’t have family or friends who regularly visit, the dangers to your health can become significant.
The numbers of seniors experiencing this are not insignificant.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to research that has found almost a quarter of adults aged 65 and older considered to be socially isolated.
Seniors often are at a higher risk of loneliness because they are faced with certain factors that more easily can lead to its occurrence, such as living alone, having lost a spouse or other family members or friends, and chronic health conditions that may make leaving home more difficult.
Research has found that loneliness and social isolation may cause a 50% increased risk of dementia, a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
As social creatures, we need human interaction. When we are removed or feel cut off from others, our bodies can increase the amount of stress hormone, which can lead to negative effects. Not only is our immune system impacted, but our mental health is as well.
The CDC reports that loneliness has been associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety. It is believed that creating and nurturing high-quality relationships can not only keep you healthier but may help you live longer as well.
Social isolation may be related to a 50% increased risk of dementia. Some studies have found that a 26% increase may be linked to experiencing loneliness, which was also associated with a higher risk of mild cognitive impairment that may precede dementia.
Although the science on these connections is still being developed, there have been factors identified that show how loneliness might influence the risk of dementia, such as its relationship with depression and a lack of cognitive stimulation with others.
If loneliness is becoming a concern in your life or a loved one’s, it’s critical not to ignore it. Time doesn’t resolve the problem and it’s not an unavoidable part of growing older. There are steps you can take, including these actions:
In-person visits are best but if that’s not possible, pick up the phone or your laptop and catch up on-line. Feeling connected is what’s the most important. If possible, use FaceTime, Skype or Zoom programs so you can at least see each other’s smiles.
Search for clubs or other groups where you can become a member and take part in their activities. Being around others can often boost your mood. Look for sporting games, book clubs or wherever your interests may take you.
Joining in social activities in your community can create a sense of belonging in your life. Knowing that you can make a difference and help others is often a natural remedy for feeling alone or lonely.
Even with the best ideas and intentions, if you’re not able to get to the activities or social events where you could meet others, you may still find yourself isolated and lonely. Look for all that a senior living community can offer and consider the benefits to your physical and emotional health.
We understand the increased risks of loneliness and the impact it can make on health as we grow older. We offer a wide selection of activities, social events and opportunities so meeting new friends and engaging with others is easy and supported.
Ingleside’s Westminster at Lake Ridge Independent Living community offers everything you need to achieve a healthy and fulfilled life. You can take advantage of our fitness programs, improve your diet with our nutritious and delicious, chef-prepared meals and connect with others at one of our scheduled activities.
In addition to keeping yourself well, you’ll have the choice of selecting an apartment or cottage to be your new home. While you take advantage of our beautiful outdoor spaces and scheduled transportation, we believe you’ll find everything you need to keep your physical and cognitive help in great shape.
Please visit our website for more information or call (703) 420-7105 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.