The Effects of Social Isolation on the Elderly

How Does Social Isolation Affect Seniors?

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Seniors have a heightened risk of social isolation because it’s often difficult for them to leave the house or interact with friends. Social isolation might not sound as intimidating as health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease or heart attacks, but it can be quite dangerous. Seniors who are socially isolated often end up experiencing the following effects.

Increased Depression Risk

One of the most significant effects of being socially isolated is depression. Humans are naturally social creatures, and without the ability to spend time with friends and loved ones, seniors are more likely to experience sadness, apathy, insomnia, and other symptoms of depression. Social interaction is such an important part of managing depression that even small interactions like video chatting with a family member or volunteering at a community organization can reduce depression risk significantly.

Social activity is only one of many components that contribute to robust mental and physical health in seniors. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of in-home care. Albuquerque families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.

Poor Lifestyle Habits

Without loved ones around them to make life enjoyable, seniors are more likely to fall back on unhealthy habits. Data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing discovered that social isolation leads to an increase in tobacco smoking, unhealthy eating, alcohol abuse, and physical inactivity. Regular contact with friends and family members encourages seniors to get healthy so they can spend more time with the people they care for.

Heightened Stress Levels

Interacting with friends causes a sharp decrease in cortisol, the hormone related to stress. A few occasional spikes in cortisol aren’t a bad thing, but chronically elevated levels of cortisol tend to result in higher amounts of inflammation and high blood pressure, which can directly impact heart and brain health. Even something simple like joining a weekly senior meetup for lunches and other activities can address chronic stress caused by social isolation.

Seniors who don’t manage their stress levels well could develop serious illnesses, making it a challenge to care for themselves on their own. If your senior loved one needs around-the-clock assistance at home, the Albuquerque live-in care professionals at Home Care Assistance are here to help. Our proprietary Balanced Care Method was designed to promote longevity by encouraging seniors to focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, mental engagement, and other important lifestyle factors.

Diminished Care

An important part of social interactions is having other people who can look out for the senior’s health. Other people may be more likely to notice signs of illness, such as weight loss or a feverish appearance, and they can help out or encourage the senior to seek medical care. Social isolation is particularly dangerous when seniors experience a medical emergency and don’t have anyone nearby to notice. Consider getting an hourly caregiver or having a neighbor drop by every now and then to check up on your loved one’s health.

Higher Chance of Dementia

A 2018 study performed by the Florida State University College of Medicine followed more than 12,000 seniors for over 10 years, and researchers discovered that feeling lonely increases dementia risk by 40 percent. This seems to happen because social isolation causes high blood pressure, depression, physical inactivity, and other risk factors for dementia. Connecting with friends also reduces dementia risk because it stimulates the brain and encourages the use of cognitive skills.

Social isolation can result in mental, emotional, and physical challenges for aging adults, but seniors don’t have to manage them alone. In Albuquerque, senior care agencies can be a great boon to seniors. With the help of the caregivers at Home Care Assistance, your aging loved one can lead a happier and healthier life. We offer a revolutionary program called the Balanced Care Method, which encourages seniors to eat nutritious foods, exercise and socialize regularly, and focus on other lifestyle factors that increase life expectancy. Contact one of our experienced Care Managers today at 505-798-0800 to learn more about our reliable in-home care services.

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