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How Important is Social Interaction for Seniors?

Did you know that chronic loneliness affects more than 8 million seniors in the United States? Being lonely – lacking sympathetic, friendly company or being without company – is often considered to be a “silent killer.” For the 28% of seniors who currently live alone, the lack of social interaction is considered more of a health risk than smoking or obesity. On the other hand, a recent study showed that increased socialization led to a 50% decrease in death among seniors. Given those statistics, the importance of social interaction for seniors needs to be top of mind for senior living communities.

The Loneliness Epidemic Among Older Adults

Solitude and loneliness are at epidemic proportions for older adults. In fact, many elderly people are isolated in their homes which goes against many of the standard senior health tips. There are many reasons for the increased probability of isolation for seniors. Isolation in adults over 50 occurs because of a variety of factors including:

  • Living alone

  • Disability or impairment (mental or physical)

  • Retirement

  • Divorce

  • Death of spouse, friends, and/or family

  • Family living far away

  • No living family members

  • Low income

  • Being the sole caregiver for another older adult

  • Inaccessible location (such as a rural or unsafe community)

  • Small or shrinking social network

  • Language barriers

Socially Isolated Seniors Face Health Risks

Older adults with the highest levels of loneliness and isolation double their odds of dying within six years. Elderly people who lack the brain stimulation that human interaction provides are at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Which leads us to one of the basic benefits of socialization for seniors, living a longer life.

Isolated seniors are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as poor eating, smoking, and avoiding physical activity or exercise. Consequently, several long-term illnesses are closely associated with loneliness and isolation such as chronic lung disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure. But one of the benefits of social interaction for seniors is lowering the feelings of depression that follow loneliness.

Isolated seniors are also more likely to need long-term nursing care since they are more inclined to forgetfulness or confusion, manage medications poorly, forget appointments and social engagements, and be unaware of new or emerging medical conditions.

Combat Loneliness in Older Adults with Care

Humans are social beings and need group interaction, but, if a senior does live alone, they are not necessarily lonely. It does mean, however, that a higher probability of loneliness can occur.

If you notice your elderly loved one is socially isolated, address the subject by approaching them with respect and care. An easy place to start is to explain some of the benefits of socialization for seniors. Offer support and let them know you’re there if they need something and will assist them with finding the help they need. They may be in denial or even resistant to the subject but be persistent! Commit to getting your older loved one the help they need. The sooner you get them thinking about the importance of social interaction the better!

Other seniors may be so impacted by loneliness that they can hardly discuss anything else. A helpful senior health tip is to divert them by sharing an experience – for example, attend a play together so you have a built-in subject to discuss while sharing a meal afterward.

Ways to Avoid Senior Social Isolation

If someone is living alone, they need to take steps to find purpose and do things that matter to them, whether it’s volunteering, becoming more involved at church, exercising, or finding light work. Given all the benefits of socialization for seniors, take the time to encourage your loved one to try some of the activities above. Additionally, there are a variety of resources for older adults to help them stay socially active including senior centers, adult day programs, and places of worship.

When a senior can’t drive anymore, there is a variety of transportation options you can help them take advantage of including, but not limited to, taxis, rideshare programs, and public transportation.

A senior living community helps older adults see the importance of social interaction by building a daily routine with the potential for building connections. Plus, senior living residents meet with each other regularly for events and meals. Because of the proximity of people with similar ages and life experiences, it is easy to discover common interests and hobbies – prompting quick friendships!

Many older adults blossom after moving to a senior living community. Seventy percent of residents and 75% of family members are more likely to report a good quality of life versus seniors living at home.

Seniors Can Experience an Abundant Social Life at River Park

River Park residents enjoy an active lifestyle with weekly scheduled activity options, along with a variety of resident-led clubs and organizations. Reach out to us today to schedule a tour and find out more about the abundant life of River Park residents!


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