If a senior you love lives alone and doesn’t venture out into their community very often, researchers say they are at higher risk for developing health problems. Isolation has been identified as a serious health risk for elderly adults.
While it’s easy to understand how elderly isolation leads to depression, the health risks extend beyond that. Lonely seniors experience greater incidences of cardiac disease, obesity, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes than their more engaged peers. Isolated seniors are even at higher risk for becoming a victim of fraud or a scam.
Knowing what leads to isolation and learning how you can help prevent it in a senior you love is vital.
What Causes Isolation Among the Elderly?
Our elderly become isolated for many reasons including:
- Transportation Challenges: When a senior begins to limit their driving or give it up entirely, access to safe and reliable transportation can be a struggle. It can force older adults to remain at home the majority of the time, even when they would like to play a more active role in their community.
- Limited Finances: Many older adults live on very fixed incomes. Finding money in their budget for entertainment and outings with friends might be tough to manage on a regular basis.
- Impaired Mobility: Another reason seniors become isolated is because of mobility problems. If they are unsteady on their feet or use an assistive device of any kind, they may feel safer in familiar surroundings. Being injured in a fall is a top fear shared by many seniors.
- Loss of Loved Ones: Older adult often become isolated as their social circle dwindles. Their adult children may have moved away after they got married or to follow a career opportunity. Lifelong friends and neighbors may have retired and moved out of state to be closer to their children. And the sad reality is many of our elderly have had their loved ones pass away.
How to Prevent Isolation in an Elderly Loved One
The first step in preventing an elderly friend or family member from becoming isolated is to identify their risk factors and take steps to overcome them.
Here are a few tips we think will help:
- Transportation Solutions: Most communities offer some form of public transportation, especially for the elderly. Your local agency on aging and your area senior center are both good avenues for investigating options. Each of them probably maintains a list of local transportation providers.
- Friendly Visitor Programs: If your elderly loved one is homebound because of a medical condition, try to line up a few friendly faces to pay regular visits. Their church or synagogue may have volunteers who fill that role. Many home care providers also offer companionship services. You can hire a professional caregiver to keep your aging family member engaged in activities, such as craft projects, board games or cards.
- Virtual Chat: Technology has made it much easier to stay connected to loved ones near and far. A tablet device is often the best way for older adults to keep in touch with friends and family. They are easy to use and require minimal maintenance. Your elderly family member can use one of these devices to Skype with you and other loved ones, as well as to stay updated on the latest family news through social media channels like Facebook.
- Senior Organizations: If your loved one is tight on funds, there are entertainment options in every community that are free or charge only a nominal fee. Senior centers are a good resource for older adults on a fixed income. Most charge only a small yearly fee to cover the organization’s daily programs. Some senior centers even offer meal services for a very reasonable cost.
- Volunteer Work: Our final suggestion is one that has been proven to keep seniors happy and healthy. Seniors who volunteer with a local charitable organization experience better physical and emotional well-being. Call the local United Way to learn what volunteer opportunities there are near your loved one’s home.
We hope this information helps you keep the elderly members of your family active and engaged with life. It’s the best way to prevent isolation and a vital part of successful aging!