Social Isolation Among Seniors: What Can Be Done?
According to the Madison County Health Department, social isolation is a growing problem among older people. However, this was only identified as a major cause for concern in 2016 and is still not listed as a priority. Seniors are most at risk of social isolation due to increasing immobility and an ever decreasing social circle. Is should be noted that social isolation is an objectively measurable condition, defined by a lack of social interaction. Loneliness is the subjective feeling that often accompanies it.
What are the Effects of Social Isolation?
Social relationships act as a support mechanism, particularly for those who are suffering from ill health. There is evidence to suggest that the elderly can lower their blood pressure through volunteering, thereby decreasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack. As elderly people age, they often end up widowed and living alone.
Furthermore, the lack the mobility prevents the elderly from regularly leaving the house to attend social events. This combination of already low levels of health and dwindling social interactions has meant that, according to one study, social isolation increases the risk of mortality by 29%. This is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
What Can Be Done?
It starts with you. If ordinary people get involved with helping their elderly relatives, problems can be greatly reduced. By simply picking up the phone and having a conversation, you are already helping to keep senior citizens socially connected.
Encourage your parents or grandparents to adopt a pet that requires little maintenance, such as a cat. The loving bond and oxytocin that is consequently released is enough to lower stress levels and anxieties, helping people to feel less alone.
Finally, get senior citizens involved in local community events and offer to drive them there as often as possible. They will meet new friends and feel included in society. The Madison County Senior Citizens Center has plenty of fun activities aimed exclusively at elderly residents.
Social isolation is a growing and potentially fatal problem in Madison County, but there are a few simple ways you can make a change today. It is up to us as a community to ensure senior citizens do not feel socially excluded as they age. This can prolong their lives and reduce the chances of serious medical problems.