As more and more research proves how detrimental loneliness is to a person’s health, the number of people experiencing loneliness is rising. This is especially true for older adults and the elderly.
But we can combat loneliness and its negative impact on the mental and physical health of the older generation. Here we’ll explore loneliness in the elderly and how to prevent it.
An epidemic of loneliness
More than 2 million people over the age of 75 in the UK live alone. Shockingly, more than a million older people go for more than a month without speaking to a friend or relative (Age UK).
Loneliness in the over 50s is set to increase by 49% by 2025/6, to 2 million from around 1.4 million in 2016//17.
Half a million people go at least 5 to 6 days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.
Loneliness can happen in older age for a variety of reasons. Becoming older and less physically able to get out and about, retirement, family and friends have moved away or passed away, or disability and illness are some factors that may lead to social isolation.
The effects of loneliness
It can be difficult to measure social isolation and loneliness accurately, but there is strong evidence that many older adults are lonely or socially isolated to a level that puts their health at risk. Here are some of the mental and physical effects of loneliness.
- It significantly increases a risk of premature death from all causes, in some cases to a greater degree than smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- It is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia.
- Lack of social relationships is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Unsurprisingly, higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide have been identified in people who are lonely.
How to prevent loneliness in the elderly
Get out and about if you can. Arrange a lunch date with family or a walk in the park with an old friend. Find a local activity, maybe an old hobby or a new one, where you can meet new people and learn a new skill.
This is especially important if you have difficulty getting out and about on a regular basis. Being able to video call family and friends or find new online friends that share similar interests is all possible now thanks to the wonders of technology and the internet.
Look after your health
Don’t engage in self destructive behaviors such as excessive alcohol, binge eating or smoking. These are common vices for people that feel lonely and isolated but ultimately, will do further harm. A healthy diet and daily movement will help you maintain good physical and mental health.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to help others in need and also meet new people. There are so many options to volunteer in an area that interests you. Visit here for some ideas.
Companionship from Eximius
For some people, health conditions may mean it’s just not possible to get out and about and do the things they once could. If day-to-day life has become difficult and loneliness has taken root then live-in care may be a viable option. A live-in companion can help take care of any personal care, meal preparation, maintenance of the home, escorting to appointments or social events and most importantly, be a friendly face and provide daily companionship so you don’t feel lonely. Learn more about the service we offer here and don’t hesitate to get in touch for more information.