Social Isolation and Older Adults

Isolation and loneliness are two things that many older adults experience.  1 in 5 people over the age of 50 are affected by isolation.  A significant risk factor is living alone.  As children move away and spouses die, it leaves many living alone.  20% of people 65+ live alone and almost 50% of women 75+ live alone.  The LGBTQ community is twice as likely to experience feelings of isolation than other communities.

Social contacts tend to decrease as we age for a variety of reasons, including retirement, the death of friends and family, or lack of mobility. Regardless of the causes of older adult isolation, the consequences can be alarming and even harmful. Even perceived social isolation – the feeling that you are lonely – is a struggle for many older people.

Why does this matter? Isolation and loneliness are associated with higher risks of:

  • Chronic health conditions, including heart disease
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Admission to nursing homes or use of emergency services
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
  • Death

During the Holidays, feelings of isolation and loneliness may intensify.  You can help!  Remember to visit the older adults in your life – friends, family, and neighbors.  Take them out if they lack transportation.  Encourage them to exercise and to remain involved in their community.  Spend time with them.  For an older adult that contact can be a matter of life or death.