A recent survey posted in the New York Post showed over 225,000 UK senior citizens sometimes go for a week without talking to anyone. These numbers from the UK study compelled us to revisit the gut wrenching subject of loneliness once again.
We wrote an Overcoming Loneliness blog post 13 months ago that offered proactive steps helping older adults break the isolation rut and get them back in the game of life. Sometimes this may sound easy, but for many older Americans who struggle with loneliness, this is a tough battle to beat.
The sad part about loneliness is it does not just affect the older population, millennial's are feeling the pain as well. The Post reported, “One in five millennial's feel lonely and have “no friends,” according to another 2019 survey. Teenagers appear to be lonelier than ever and our nation's digital landscape seems to be exacerbating the problem.
The side effects of isolation are many, but the National Institute of Health's research shows loneliness in older adults brings its own set of health risks. Some of the health challenges our elderly population experience include cognitive decline, depression and heart disease. Additional research links other health risks from isolation and loneliness from physical and mental conditions, high blood pressure, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety to Alzheimer's disease.
What was quite intriguing about the NY Post article was the discussion about a US scientist working to develop a pill to treat the loneliness problem and the UK appointing a minister for loneliness to help alleviate the epidemic. We believe our country should go back to the day when families checked on elderly relatives often. Additionally, sitting down at the dinner table and having healthy conversation can go a long way improving the quality of life. In this fast paced world, we have lost touch with the basics of human connections and conversations. Regrettably, we have turned to our devices for companionship. This may be ok short term, but long term it does not work.
As we approach the holiday season, we would like for families and friends to remember our senior citizens, especially those who are living alone. If at all possible, try to squeeze in a few minutes during the day to check in on them. Taking time to visit and inquire about their needs will establish a bond that will be cherished forever.
Social interactions are as important as exercise when it comes to good health. The experts say that good social connections can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I promise, if you spend a few minutes in a warm healthy conversation with an older adult, it will help keep their minds sharp and their bodies active. Hopefully, with your help, the next time the press reports on this issue, these numbers will be much improved.