Senior Alternatives

Care Management and Home Care Services
Combating Loneliness Among Seniors

March 28, 2019

By now the evidence is abundant. Social connections or lack thereof significantly affect the health and well being of an individual. While technology seems to be a perfect way to stay connected, 1/3 of all Americans still report feeling lonely. The groups most affected are those under 25 and those over 65. A study at Harvard University followed hundreds of people for 75 years and loneliness was the single greatest single predictor of physical health, longevity, and quality of life.

Addressing loneliness is not just about human contact. You cannot pull a “one-size fits all” solution for older adults off the shelf. It doesn’t work. Instead, you need to identify the root causes for loneliness and develop individual strategies based on needs, and then handle the obstacles that get in the way.

Social connections and staying actively involved are two key strategies for healthy aging. Encouraging and supporting meaningful social connections through activities such as volunteerism, religious affiliations, and home visiting programs are a few examples of ways to avoid social isolation.

It takes a village to find answers, and given the epidemic of loneliness we are facing, the medical community must jump in. This is a nationwide problem and needs to be addressed as such. Physicians, nurses and other clinicians need to see loneliness as a treatable condition. Screening for loneliness during medical appointments needs to become part of every patient visit. There are degrees of loneliness, but they have similar outcomes. Heart disease, dementia, immune disorders, functional impairments, all ending in premature death.

We must all be part of the solution and we need to be active village participants. Reach out to local volunteer agencies, schools, senior communities-any place there is an opportunity to make a difference. After all, we are stronger when we work together.

Resources:
National Poll on Healthy Aging, March 2019
Togetherness Program-CareMore Health Systems
Scientific American: To Combat loneliness and promote social health by Kelsey Killam 1/23/2018
Kaiser Permanente North West

A study at Harvard University followed hundreds of people for 75 years and loneliness was the single greatest single predictor of physical health, longevity, and quality of life.

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