THE STORY OF ISOLATION
According to the National Seniors Council, approximately 50 per cent of people over the age of 80 report feeling lonely.
Loneliness and isolation are leading causes of mental and physical deterioration in seniors. Meaningful relationships, quality contact with other people and engaging activities can lead to a reduction in this deterioration by up to 60 per cent.
But, loneliness and isolation are often overlooked problems. Senior citizens are parents and grandparents, friends, neighbours, and ultimately people who have complex needs.
Beating loneliness isn't just about the number of interactions a person has in a day. It relies on the quality of time spent with others. A caring conversation, a short walk or even just a thoughtful smile can increase levels of satisfaction, reduce stress and provide authentic human connection for anyone.
Loneliness is subjective. It can come from the way someone lives, from their internal landscape and the state of their mental and emotional health. An isolated lifestyle can alter mental, emotional, and social functioning over time.
Ultimately, the direct and indirect impacts of isolation pose serious risks to mental health in seniors. Experiencing social isolation directly stimulates negative perspective and behaviors, which can intensify over time. It can even undermine treatment outcomes.
Persistent loneliness has been shown to directly influence self-preservation mentality and behaviors, fixation on negative thoughts and outcomes, hyper-vigilance toward social threats, increased stress and anxiety and poor sleep quality.
Loneliness has been associated with personality disorders and psychoses, suicide, impaired cognitive performance and cognitive decline over time, increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, diminished executive control, and increases in depressive symptoms.
The affect of social isolation on accessing treatment can be profound. Those who are socially isolated are less likely to seek treatment or recovery options. Without social supports, those who do manage to access treatment are less likely to follow through or to see results upon completion.
Ultimately, loneliness and isolation have been shown to have a compounded affect on both quality and length of life in seniors.
To learn more, visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874845/
to view an article written by Louise C. Hawkley and John T. Cacioppo outlining the broad affects of loneliness and isolation on physical and mental health.