Home Alone: How Loneliness Affects the Elderly

Posted by Meghan Orner on January 11, 2016

Home Alone: How Loneliness Affects the Elderly

The month of January brings many new and exciting promises: another year has just begun, allowing you to tackle your resolutions for the year, and it may even bring the first snowfall of the season. However, now that the excitement of the holidays has ended, an often overlooked aspect of this time of year is how loneliness affects the elderly.

It’s not uncommon for seniors to live alone, but spending too much time alone can be extremely detrimental to one’s health. In fact, a recent study conducted by Brigham Young University has found that isolation is as dangerous as obesity as it increases your early mortality risk by about 30 percent.

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Seniors Have Too Much Alone Time

Researchers looked at 70 studies involving a total of 3.5 million people in order to focus on how loneliness, social isolation and living alone affect one’s health. These may not be thought of as a strong predictor of death, but as it turns out, social isolation may be as deadly as smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day or drinking too much alcohol.

This study’s results are particularly alarming because now more than ever, more people are living alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27 percent of Americans lived alone in 2013, and now experts are predicting a loneliness epidemic will occur in about 30 years.

But why are seniors most at risk? As we age, our social networks typically shrink. For example, after leaving the workplace to enjoy retirement, you no longer have that daily contact with your coworkers. The death of a spouse or faraway loved ones can also contribute to loneliness.

How loneliness affects the elderly seems to be a growing topic of concern, and for good reason – just check out the statistics below from a study on loneliness in seniors by AARP:

The Importance of Being Social

It’s quite normal to view our homes as safe havens. After all, it’s where most of our beloved memories come from. But as the above study shows, staying home alone too often can have serious negative effects on your overall health, which is why having regular social interactions with others is so important.

Looking for ways to be social? These ideas may seem daunting at first, but the health benefits and fun you’ll have far outweighs any nerves or feelings of discomfort you may have at first.

  • Plan a weekly meal with loved ones or nearby friends at your favorite restaurants.
  • Enjoy some laughs at a weekly game night.
  • Check your local community centers for any activities or volunteer initiatives.
  • Don’t let the fear of driving keep you from being social – Uber has become increasingly popular among seniors as it is an affordable and convenient way to remain independent and social.

If you have difficulty leaving your home, there are still other ways you can be social! Social media is becoming increasingly popular among older adults, and no wonder – it gives you the rare opportunity to reconnect with those who you may have lost touch with over the years.

If you’re not as tech-savvy with social media or Uber, another option is owning a pet. After all, pets aren’t called man’s best friend for nothing! Pets are a great option for seniors as they provide unconditional love, company, and even a few health benefits for you.

No matter what activity you choose, just remember that anything you do to promote an active and social lifestyle will benefit you!


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