One of the most common health concerns amongst seniors that’s the least discussed is loneliness. Aging comes with a multitude of factors that can contribute to isolation and loneliness, which can include the loss of close friends or family members moving away. Worse, loneliness itself can cause a number of health-related issues for seniors, including increased risk mortality, depression, cognitive decline, dementia, high blood pressure, and a number of other conditions.
What Are the Statistics Behind Senior Loneliness?
Around 11 million seniors in the United States are living alone and that’s one of the biggest contributing factors in loneliness. These numbers are likely to rise and more and more adults are not having children, meaning there will be fewer family members to provide company and care for them as seniors.
What Are the Causes of Senior Isolation and Loneliness?
There are several other factors that can lead to isolation and loneliness in seniors. These factors include:
- The death of one’s spouse
- Children moving away
- A change in living environment
- The deterioration of a friend network
- The fear of becoming a burden
- The fear of going out and incurring an injury
- Difficulty communicating
Each of these factors can lead to increased loneliness in seniors, which can lead to a number of serious health effects.
What Are the Negative Health Effects of Senior Loneliness?
Reduced Physical and Mental Health
Loneliness has a direct negative impact on physical and mental health. Seniors that feel lonely and isolated are more likely to report having poor physical and mental health. There are many negative effects loneliness can have on your physical health, the first being lack of self-care through poor diet and hygiene, and lack of exercise.
Studies have shown that those adults who feel lonely or isolated choose more unhealthy food options and tend to eat less fruits and vegetables. Part of the reasoning behind this is said to be that meals made for oneself are often simple and thrown-together, whereas meals prepared for a group are more likely to be well-balanced. Those who are lonely are also often less motivated, leading to poor hygiene and less frequent exercise.
Increased Risk of Death
Loneliness leads to an increased risk of mortality in seniors. This may be due to seniors living alone and lacking social contacts because they are less likely to seek medical attention due to no one encouraging them to see the doctor. The risk of early death associated with loneliness, social isolation, and living alone was equal to or greater than the premature death risk associated with obesity and other major health conditions.
Increased Risk of Cognitive Decline and Dementia
There are several ways in which isolation can put one at risk for dementia. One way may be physiological, such as through higher inflammation—the body’s natural response to infection that can be harmful when it lasts a long time. A second way may be through behavior. People may cope with loneliness through behaviors that can damage the brain, such as heavy drinking or being sedentary. A third way is through lack of meaningful social interaction. Keeping the mind engaged in a meaningful way can promote cognitive health that provides the motivation and structure to help maintain cognitive functioning.
Fairmont Grand Senior Living Community
Fairmont Grand is a resident centered senior living and memory care facility in Rapid City, SD. Our goal is to create an environment where resident well-being is at the heart of everything we do.
Our wide range of services are designed to meet you or your loved one’s daily needs. We offer restaurant style dining options, a variety of physical activities, and give residents the opportunity to live as independently as possible.