Everyone needs social connections to thrive and survive, especially those aged 65+. Sadly, as people age, they often spend more time alone. Studies have found that prolonged periods of social isolation and loneliness can be detrimental to an older adult’s physical and mental health, including their brain. Seniors that feel lonely and isolated are more likely to experience cognitive decline and even are exposed to the risk of dementia than those who stay socially connected. For that special senior in your life, here’s why good brain health often results in a higher quality of life.
Loneliness and Social Isolation Are Different
Although they are related, loneliness and social isolation are different. Loneliness is the distressing feeling of being alone or separated from others. On the other hand, social isolation is the lack of social contacts and having fewer people to interact with regularly. A senior can live alone and not feel lonely or socially isolated. They may even feel lonely while around other people.
Health Problems Linked to Chronic Loneliness Leading to Dementia
Many seniors are at higher risk of feeling lonely or socially isolated due to age-related changes like hearing loss, memory loss, vision loss, disability, trouble getting around, or the loss of loved ones. A 2018 study from the health insurer Cigna found that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.
Chronic loneliness and social isolation also appear to be bad for brain health. Both have been linked to reduced cognitive function and a higher risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, little social activity and being alone most of the time may diminish one’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) like driving, paying bills, taking medicine, and cooking.
Why Seniors Feel Lonely and Isolated
Seniors who find themselves unexpectedly isolated due to the illness of a loved one, separation from family and friends (Think: Covid-19), loss of mobility, worsening vision or hearing problems, disability, or another problem are at risk for loneliness and social isolation.
Other risk factors include:
- Living alone
- Lack of reliable transportation
- Death of a spouse or partner
- Being a family caregiver
- Living in a rural, unsafe, or hard to reach a community
- Dealing with a language barrier
- Feeling a lack of purpose in life
- Experiencing discrimination (age, ethnic, sexual orientation, etc.)
How You Can Help Prevent Risk Of Dementia
If you suspect that your aging loved one’s health is being impacted by loneliness and social isolation, the first step is encouraging them to speak with their doctor. During the appointment, they can share their feelings openly and honestly. After collecting information about your loved one’s medical conditions, lifestyle, and emotional health, their doctor may perform additional tests to identify any early signs of cognitive decline.
Brain Health Tips for Older Adults
Protecting one’s cognitive health from the harmful effects of loneliness and social isolation is possible through lifestyle modifications like participating in regular exercise, following a brain-healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and pursuing activities they enjoy.
Here are some other ways for seniors to stay connected, even in a post-Covid age:
- Restart an activity or hobby you enjoy or start a new one.
- Use communication technologies like video chats or social media to stay connected with family and friends.
- Find a faith-based organization where you can deepen your spirituality and engage with others in activities and events.
- Get involved in the community as a volunteer.
- If otherwise healthy enough to care for one, consider adopting a pet from a local shelter.
- Introduce yourself to your neighbors.
When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia and lives alone, family members, friends, or professional in-home caregivers may be able to help.
Reliable In-Home Companionship Care for Seniors in Bradenton
Keeping your aging loved one active and socially engaged can be challenging. At First In Care, our compassionate caregivers can provide your seniors with the nurturing and companionship they deserve. While serving as an extended family in your loved one’s home, our highly trained professionals understand what’s required to maintain a client’s quality of life, along with their dignity and self-esteem.
In addition to companionship care uniquely tailored to your family’s needs, First In Care also provides in-home support. We can assist with daily living activities like personal hygiene, light housework, medication reminders, and transportation. Our senior caregiving services are affordable, flexible, and always delivered in a seamless package that restores your peace of mind. To learn more now about our private home health and concierge services in Bradenton and Manatee County, Florida, please visit www.firstincare.com.