When we think of epidemics which can kill people, we tend to think of chronic diseases, like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
What doesn’t always come to mind are emotional issues, particularly one as “commonplace” as loneliness?
To some extent, we all deal with loneliness. However, studies have shown chronic loneliness can have a severe impact on a person’s life.
Even our beloved senior friends and family members are at risk of developing chronic loneliness and depression.
The Impact Loneliness Can Have on Our Health
Researchers and physicians have found loneliness has become an epidemic. Nearly half the population feels the effects of it at times.
What causes loneliness? The biggest issue is isolation, whether it’s by choice or not. We all need contact with people who love and support us. However, due to distance, responsibilities, and social media, more and more people lack the real-life, in-person, interpersonal communication which is vital to our health and wellbeing.
Some even say loneliness is actually deadly, but is this really the case? Actually, it is. Researchers have found loneliness can have an adverse impact on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. The combination can lead to premature death.
In 2013, an article was released regarding the dangers of loneliness. The Journal of the American Heart Association did some follow-up research more recently to see how loneliness and isolation affected patients with heart failure.
Researchers found patients who were lonely due to high perceived social isolation had:
- Risk of death increased nearly four times
- Hospitalization increased close to two times
- Visits to the Emergency Room increased over almost two times
This has caused some to make the claim that loneliness impacts a person’s health as much as, if not more so, than smoking and obesity.
What Can Be Done to Help Seniors Overcome Loneliness?
Seniors are at serious risk for developing severe loneliness. What can be done to help them?
Some might assume all a person has to do is invite friends and family over more often, or set up a social media account, and they’ll be just fine.
The problem is, though, seniors are in a very unique situation.
They can’t always simply invite friends and family over, due to the fact as we get older, we start to lose friends and family members. The grief from this in conjunction with the loneliness can lead to overwhelming depressive feelings for seniors.
Additionally, seniors sometimes have a hard time having company over because of physical limitations. Due to age, illness, or injury, they aren’t always able to do what they used to, like entertaining people.
Add to this the fact that younger family members, like adult children and grandchildren, often work the majority of the day and have other responsibilities to care for and it’s easy to see why seniors often feel so isolated.
Thankfully, There’s a Solution: Adult Day Care
Adult day care facilities give seniors the opportunity to interact on a regular basis with people of all ages, including their peers and the adult day care staff and volunteers.
Day care provides seniors with a safe, enjoyable environment and regular attendance will help to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness.
When seniors feel less lonely, they feel happier and healthier. This, in turn, can boost their immune health, resulting in less illness and the ability to fight illness when it strikes. Seniors will also be able to recover faster from surgeries and hospital visits when they’re feeling emotionally healthy.
Encourage Seniors to Seek Help with Their Loneliness
Every single one of us will feel lonely at some point. The goal is to not let it become the norm. Chronic loneliness can lead to depression and reduced immune function.
To help our senior loved ones avoid experiencing this, we should encourage them to invest their time and energy into adult day care. Doing so will make them feel so much better!