Elderly Need Friends and Family To Be Happy and Healthy
Seniors become increasingly immobile with age. It becomes difficult for them to get out because of hills, unsafe or crowded streets, or old housing stock. It seems easier to them to stay inside the house. This ultimately leads to their social isolation and loneliness.
The cause of this loneliness in senior citizens can also be due to the loss of a spouse, lifestyle changes after retirement, infirmity, and hearing loss. The report by the Alzheimer's Association reveals that one in seven people with Alzheimer's disease live alone.
Psychologists from the University of Chicago found that solitary seniors tend to push people away. They do not make efforts to meet or be friendly with others. This makes them lonelier than ever.
The AgingCare reported several studies that show a very dismal statistics about loneliness in elderly. The UCSF researchers found that 43% people above 60 reported feeling lonely on a regular basis. These isolated elders also had a 59% more risk of physical and mental decline.
A study by AARP also proved that social isolation can lead to serious health problems. It is akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day! According to this study, older adults who are lonely have a higher risk of memory loss, high blood pressure, poor immunity, and heart diseases. Elderly who feel lonely are likely to become physically inactive and get poor sleep. The mortality risk increases by three times for such people too.
NPR reports that after World War II, a nonprofit organization called Little Brothers was started in France. It matches volunteers with older adults who are lonely and have no friends or family members to talk to. Today, the organization works in several US cities, such as in San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Besides talking with volunteers, there are roommate matching services available in various states to address loneliness too. The AARP Foundation runs a nationwide online network called Connect2Affect where people can do a self-assessment test and then, volunteer to communicate with some lonely elderly people.