Isolation is a growing health epidemic. The AARP Foundation Connect2Affect campaign states that the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
When asked which they would rather give up for a week, 79% of seniors said they would rather give up watching TV than talking with their friends and family.
Social interaction and connections are necessary to lead a happy, healthy life. More than 8 million adults or 1 in 5 adults age 50+ are affected by isolation. The effects of the isolation and loneliness can be even more debilitating if they have any cognitive decline.
Isolation is not caused by a single event; many factors contribute to the feeling of being isolated and alone. It’s even more difficult for seniors who struggle financially or who have memory issues such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Factors that contribute to isolation include:
- Lack of access to quality resources, services, and transportation
- Declining health, mobility and overall well-being
- Life transitions: retirement, loss of a spouse
- Challenges with staying in contact with friends and family
Lonely seniors are more eager to answer unknown phone calls, and strike up a “friendship” with whoever is on the other end of the line. This makes them especially vulnerable to
scammers and telemarketers. Seniors, who have already been taken advantage of, are almost afraid to answer the phone and therefore become even more isolated and disconnected.
Ways to help seniors stay connected and engaged:
- Give them a purpose for getting out of the house. Visit the local senior center, take part in educational and fun activities, and meet up with friends. Ensure reliable transportation is available.
- Provide a simplified means of communication. A basic telephone that allows the family/caregiver to monitor their phone usage and block unwanted calls can eliminate much of the confusion created by the overwhelming number of features on most modern phones. It can also protect vulnerable seniors from scammers and help them to feel more comfortable with answering their phone again. This helps to ensure they stay connected with friends and family.
Addressing these issues can open-up a new world to seniors, reducing the feeling of isolation and enriching their lives and the community as well.