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Many seniors consider it important to maintain their independence and choose to live alone. Doing so provides privacy and peaceful surroundings. But, this can lead social isolation, which is common among seniors who live alone. It’s important for them to know social isolation effects on mental health.
Plenty of seniors have close family that visit, and that helps to keep seniors socializing with others. Due to the recent global COVID-19 pandemic, visits from family members have reduced, and these extended periods of time with few to no visitors could be bad for a senior’s mental health.
What Defines Social Isolation
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says social isolation occurs whenever someone feels lonely and isolated. Older adults are prone to social isolation and run a greater risk of suffering from dementia when they are not capable of getting around due to health issues.
They also say more than a third of adults surveyed who are over age 45 report being lonely, which can get worse with age, and about a fourth of all senior citizens are socially isolated due to little interaction with family and friends.
A 2018 survey conducted by Cigna showed loneliness afflicted about half of 20,000 adults surveyed. Cigna says the studies suggest an all-time high for social isolation is affecting adults and senior citizens. That was before the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which likely made the number rise.
Symptoms of Social Isolation in Seniors
Social isolation contributes to mental decline in seniors. Studies show seniors who talk with family and friends enjoy healthier bodies and minds. That is due to the mental engagement that goes along with social interaction. When the interaction is with people that a senior loves and cares for, it is beneficial.
But, when a senior is isolated and lonely, the potential for dementia becomes greater. Poor health and reduced mental faculties could make a senior more dependent upon nursing care.
Common symptoms and signs of social isolation effects on mental health include:
- Anxiety and panic due to potential social interaction.
- Limiting contact with others while spending a lot of time alone.
- Avoiding formerly enjoyable social events.
- Being distressed over social isolation but dreading social events.
Social interaction helps seniors to focus and use their minds and bodies while conversing and moving about. It sharpens their mental abilities while also making them active. The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on seniors due to social isolation effects on mental health. Talking could reduce social isolation.
Seniors are vulnerable to COVID-19, which has made it important to prevent exposure from family members and others. Any pre-existing health conditions could become deadly if COVID-19 or other illnesses affect them. The resulting social isolation is something most seniors and their families never considered before the pandemic.
How You Can Help Seniors in Your Family
The COVID-19 pandemic requires extra caution when around vulnerable seniors. But it is very important for families to remain in close contact. Testing can help protect seniors while allowing their families to visit them.
You should try to call as often as possible and check on the wellbeing of family seniors. Even those who do not reside in a senior home or other care facility can get lonely if they live alone. Frequent phone calls from family and close friends can help to cut through the isolation. Pet therapy is another great great way to reduce loneliness in seniors.
One of the best methods of keeping in contact with elders in your family is using Zoom. If you don’t know, it’s a web call app much like Skype where you can have face to face interaction with friends and family. Greet your family senior with a smile on Zoom.
The effects of social isolation are bad for seniors. But you can look for symptoms and take steps to fend off loneliness and keep beloved seniors engaged. North Star Senior Advisors can help families to find viable solutions for helping seniors to stay healthy and engaged instead of isolated. Please feel free to contact us to learn more.