All humans are social beings who need the rapport of their loved ones and peers for a happy existence. Elders are no exception to this. Infact they completely detest the prospect of aging alone. Rather they need the company of their life-partners, family and friends to support them in the golden phase of life.
Sadly, however, though the senior population is growing rapidly, many elderly people are prone to loneliness and isolation in the modern world today. It has a tremendous negative impact on the life of elders indeed by harming their health and disturbing their mental well-being as well. Isolation typically happens when seniors fail to connect with people in a social environment making them feel lonely and neglected and also lowering their self-esteem.
Causes of Isolation
- Loss of a spouse, a loved one or a close friend
- Relocation of family members particularly children
- The fear of injury when venturing out alone
- The apprehension of becoming a burden
- Lack of transportation to reach out to people
- Physical and geographic barriers
- Poor health and self-esteem
- Negative social interactions
- Feelings of neglect expressed by peers which may become contagious
Symptoms of Isolation
- Feeling of despair, dejection and sadness
- Decreasing interest in pursuing hobbies, doing socialization and even doing daily routines
- Dearth of enthusiasm, energy and motivation
- Disturbed sleep
- Unusual lethargy and fatigue
- Lack of concentration and memory problems
- Negligence of self-care, grooming and personal hygiene
- Increased and aggravated signs of illness, pains and aches
Impact and Consequences of Isolation
- Increased risk of mortality due to negligence of prevailing health issues and lack of medical attention
- Reduced body immunity making the elderly persons more prone to infectious diseases
- Poor physical and mental health due to feeling of loneliness
- Declination of cognition skills and a higher risk of getting mental ailments like Dementia and Alzheimer’ s Disease
- Greater probability of elderly abuse, negligence and exploitation
- Long-term illnesses like mobility impairments, arthritis, chronic lung problems and diabetes
- Elevated systolic blood pressure which may result in stroke and heart attacks
- Raised levels of anxiety, stress and depression
- Faster aging as seniors experience fear and uncertainty about future
- Higher risk of hospital re-admission
- A surge in unhealthy habits like smoking, alcohol consumption, over medication, drug abuse, overeating and repulsion for remaining active
Giving an Active Life for Seniors
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle for elderly people by encouraging them to have a nutritious and balanced diet, good sleep and sufficient physical activity.
- Try to prevent the loneliness of seniors by involving more people around them. This may be achieved by having periodic outings, visits from family members and friends, attending community activities, going to public places like park and library, volunteering, mentoring or moving to senior care facilities like assisted living homes.
- Elders living independently in their own homes may choose to take help from home healthcare services for seniors. These services not only assist with daily living and support medical needs but also ensure that seniors are meaningfully engaged in various activities to avoid isolation.
- One of the simplest but promising ways to thwart loneliness in seniors while simultaneously ensuring their physical and mental well-being is by doing exercise. Seniors who do low impact exercises and aerobics regularly are known to be healthier and happier.
- Seniors can be encouraged to attend training sessions on areas of interest like healthcare, computer usage, social media and cooking.
- Technology may be utilized to overcome the barriers of loneliness. Various senior-friendly assistive devices, web-based applications and user-friendly guides are available for this purpose.
- Elders facing emotional problems like stress, tension, anxiety and loneliness can benefit from the services of geriatric counselling at home. Here, trained professionals interact with elders on an individual basis and suggest customized solutions for overcoming their problems.