While loneliness and isolation can be a cause for concern for people of any age, sombre statistics reveal that for elderly people, being isolated can be a matter of life and death. A recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences has revealed that elderly people who are isolated socially from friends and family are at a greater risk of dying prematurely.
The study, which concentrated on 6,500 people above the age of 52 was conducted in 2004, and focused on two factors – social isolation and loneliness. The classifications for social isolation were based on the amount of contact that subjects partaking in the study had with friends and family, and a series of survey questions were used to determine loneliness in individuals.
Many Seniors Suffer Social Isolation
It is estimated that as many as one in three people above the age of 60 suffer from social isolation, and there are a number of factors which contribute to loneliness and isolation in the elderly. Work commitments can often mean that family members are busy for long periods of time, or perhaps working in areas a long distance away from elderly parents or family members. Many people have family commitments of their own, and the pressures of balancing a hectic working life with raising young children can leave little free time to visit elderly relatives.
As our population continues to age, mobility issues can prevent people of pensionable age from getting out quite as much. This can have a detrimental impact on social interaction, contributing further to loneliness and isolation. As saddening as it is, it is also a fact of life that as people age, friends and peers pass away, sometimes prematurely. The death of close friends can often lead to depression and further isolation.
Ways To Increase Social Interaction
Thankfully, there are a number of options available to help increase social interaction amongst the elderly, which can improve quality of life immeasurably. Care homes, retirement villages and home care are all options which can boost general wellbeing in the older population.
In recent years, retirement villages have witnessed a growth in popularity. These developments are an excellent alternative to care homes and are perfectly tailored to people of retirement age, and help the elderly to maintain a level of independence whilst still offering a level of care and support when needed.
Retirement villages often boast fantastic leisure facilities, and are community-focused. Many have a range of shops and restaurants, and are a more true reflection of traditional village living, without having some of the negative connotations associated with care homes. With a focus on interaction, retirement villages help to promote a healthy, active, sociable lifestyle, and could be the solution to the enduring problem of social isolation and loneliness amongst the elderly.