Combating Social Isolation: Insights from Today’s Aging Experts

| January 4, 2018 | 2 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

Combating Social Isolation: Insights from Today’s Aging Experts

Humans have a fundamental need for socialization and inclusion. For older adults, living alone and being socially isolated are rising to the top of age-related health issues. In fact, research studies reveal that lacking social connections can be as damaging to health. And as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. An AARP Foundation-funded 2016 research project found that nearly half of older adults aged 62-91 experienced occasional or relatively frequent loneliness. And that number only continues to rise as many older adults find themselves living alone, lacking contact, and suffering from social isolation. Others may be married but have left the workforce, have close, long-time friends. This for who have moved or gotten sick, act as a family caregiver or they or a spouse have mobility or cognitive issues.

As social isolation continues to be a growing problem among older adults, aging experts from leading companies. And research firms around the U.S., including Aging In Place Technology Watch, GreatCall, Home Care Assistance and Link-age Connect. Share tips and key insights to make social engagement a priority early on, leading to a long-term impact on health and happiness.

  • Virtual Communities as a Solution for Loss of Mobility

Travelling to and from social engagements may be difficult or impossible for some older adults. If that’s the case, an online community, support group or church organization can help ease anxiety. And provide community engagement through virtual access instead. The ability to talk with others who share a health condition. Or other concern is one of the best ways to cope with depression, fear and loneliness. Grief and bereavement groups are also an important resource for widows and widowers who may otherwise become isolated.  Some churches or synagogues will even offer to place a weekly phone call to a loved one who may be feeling isolated. – Laurie Orlov, principal analyst, Aging In Place Technology Watch

  • Technology Improves Safety and Increases Meaningful Connections

Some older adults may avoid social situations. That is because they lack confidence due to vision, hearing or cognitive decline. Technology can be a great way to help them continue to feel like part of a community. There are a host of different types of technology that can keep older adults engaged. Its from devices that remind them to take medications, to a personal emergency response system around their neck or on their wrist. May a smartphone that summons help at the push of a button. Telemedicine offerings can also help support lonely, depressed, isolated, frail and/or suicidal older adults. These phone and app-based services provide an outlet for older adults who may not be close to family or have friends. Or who live in rural areas where community programs are far and few. – David Inns, CEO, GreatCall

  • For the Caregiver

The interesting thing about isolation is that it can happen even to people who don’t live alone. Especially to caregiving spouses. It might look as though they aren’t lonely—after all. They live with their spouse. But caregiving responsibilities can often become all-consuming. If the loved one has dementia, incontinence, or mobility challenges, it can be inconvenient or embarrassing to get out and meet friends. or may be engage with the world, but it can also be dangerous to leave them at home while the caregiver goes out on their own. If you’re a caregiver and you can’t leave your loved one, see about an adult day program. Or you can schedule a friend or other relative to come by for respite care. If you’re looking to help those who are caring for others, scheduling a fixed time to come by to help out with some little chores. Like taking out the garbage cans and using the time to visit with the caregiving friend is a great way to ease feeling of isolation. – Katie Roper, VP of healthcare strategy & partnerships, Home Care Assistance

  • A Sense of Purpose Matters

From a research perspective, we are finding that many people who are socially isolated don’t see themselves as such, which can cause a completely new set of challenges. In addition to this, they are not looking at the social aspect of their well being as one of the top priorities. Having a clear purpose is key.  – Suzanne Viox, executive director, Link-age Connect



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