Based on a study by Dr Beer, director of centre for housing, urban and regional planning at the University of Adelaide, an estimated 20% older Australians are socially isolated resulting to cases of insomnia, depression, Dementia, and elevated blood pressure.
Isolation greatly affects seniors’ health and affecting society as a whole. It places extra strain on carers and additional demand for health services as well. Particularly, when seniors feel isolated, they have a reduced sense of community.
Why is it important for seniors to be social?
Seniors experience a multitude of overwhelming changes in their daily life as they grow older. Some of which include the death of a spouse, a change in the living environment, and difficulty communicating as a result of language or hearing problems. Moreover, they will find out that they cannot do the things they normally do without difficulty.
In addition, they might feel lonelier because their children are moving away, they fear of becoming a burden to the family, they lose a network of friends and they even fear of going out and risk falling. They may also develop an illness such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.
The sad reality is that these changes cause them to stay indoors most of the time. As a result, a lot of seniors suffer from loneliness and isolation. That is why, to help them cope with those overwhelming adjustments, they have to socialise frequently.
Below are a few of the benefits:
- It gives them a sense of purpose and belonging
Retirement can make seniors feel they have a decreased sense of purpose. They have spent their lives building careers and connecting with people. Now, old age has seemingly robbed them of the things they usually enjoy.
Now, becoming part of a social community can fill this need and help your seniors cope with feelings of worthlessness and despair. If they are in a company with others, they will have a sense of belonging, thus fulfilling an important need. This gives them a new zest and a new purpose.
- It encourages them to maintain physical health
One of the ways to keep your seniors healthy is to let them engage in group exercise classes and fitness clubs. These are often available in senior living communities
Physical activities boost the immune system, lower their blood pressure and reduce physical pain. Even simple walking with friends can benefit your seniors and help them maintain their physical abilities.
- It helps prevent cognitive decline
Social isolation can take a toll on the emotional health of your seniors. It can lead to a decline in their physical and mental health. A published study by Robert S. Wilson, PhD, and his colleagues revealed that lonely seniors have twice the risk of developing a type of Dementia linked to Alzheimers’ later in life compared to those who are happier with their lives. That is why social engagement among seniors is important. This will combat the negative effects of age-related neuropathy.
- Help improve their nutrition
Seniors who socialise with friends outside consume higher quality meals compared to people who live in seclusion. This is because maintaining healthy diets can be challenging for people who live alone. They frequently feel that they should only cook for one and skipping meals is easier than going through all the troubles. That is why a lot of them suffer from malnutrition. Many of these adults have no regular social interaction.
This is important because consuming healthy meals also help boost their already compromised immune system. Nutrient-rich foods will help their immune system function better. The end result is that they will live longer and happier, especially if they have regular interaction with their social circle.
Dangers of isolation
Living alone with a limited social network is a cause for concern among the elderly. How much more if your elderly has infrequent participation in social activities such as religious services or volunteering? These are particularly prevalent among seniors even those living in aged care facilities.
There are dangers you should watch out for other than the decline of your loved ones’ physical health. Loneliness and isolation can affect the mental and emotional health of seniors as well. With no social interaction, they are at risk of:
- Cognitive decline
- The onset of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia
Nowadays, social isolation is becoming an issue that deserves more attention. It is an important factor that helps in slowing down the seniors’ cognitive decline. It also improves the happiness of your seniors. Therefore, it is important to note that your aged loved ones’ mental health and physical health are equally important.
Ultimately, they will need acute interventions from local government, welfare services, and support from housing providers. High-quality aged care packages from a 5-star facility are essential as well, such as Arcare. To know more about their packages, you can check it out here.