For most people, loneliness can be emotionally painful. You might be surprised to learn that it can be harmful to a person’s health, too. This is especially the case in periods of extended social isolation and loneliness.
Isolation Leads to More Isolation
The big problem with an aging adult who is isolated is that it tends to become a self-perpetuating habit. Your aging family member may be less socially active by choice, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not experiencing the effects of that isolation, no matter what. Being alone too much can also lead to depression, which has its own health risks.
Being Alone Too Much Places Strain on the Body
Many different studies have linked illnesses such as heart disease and stroke to loneliness and isolation. While the loneliness doesn’t cause the illnesses, it can contribute and make it far more likely that your aging adult will face these problems in the future. The bottom line is that healthy social interactions are a key component of an overall healthy living plan.
Social Networks Shrink as Your Senior Ages
While your aging adult may have been a social butterfly at various stages of her life, as she grows older her social network is going to naturally shrink. This can happen because friends and acquaintances may move, pass away, or experience their own social isolation that removes them from interactions. Finding new hobbies and interests can help to expand your elderly family member’s social network so that she has a wider pool of people with whom to socialize.
There Are Solutions
Beyond developing new interests, there are other solutions. You may want to make it a point to have other family members check in more often with your aging adult. Scheduling a group dinner or game night can help. You may also want to consider hiring senior care providers to provide a friendly hour or two of companionship if you’re not available.
Whether you live in the same town as your aging adult or you live far away, check in with her as often as you can. Noticing when her situation is changing and that she’s alone more often is key to helping her avoid the potentially harmful effects of loneliness.