Loneliness and Isolation Can Kill Grandparents

By on October 19, 2015
loneliness

Loneliness and isolation have some devastating side effects, other than just making the solo person feel uncomfortable. Being and/or feeling alone can cause a host of physical and emotional ills, and can even lead to an increased likelihood of death. In fact, social isolation raises mortality among elderly individuals by 26 percent.

Factors That Lead to Loneliness

Although people of all ages may be lonely and/or isolated, there is a high incidence of this in older individuals. Some of the factors that lead to senior citizens’ loneliness include:

  • They are retired, and so don’t have regular contact with workmates.
  • Their spouses have died.
  • Their friends have died.
  • Lack of mobility keeps them home much of the time.
  • Health problems keep them from venturing out.
  • Internet connections can lead to more loneliness, rather than less, in some cases.

AARP Study Findings

The American Association of Retired People (AARP) did a study to find out more about loneliness, and they found:

  • 35 percent of survey respondents over the age of 45 years old were deemed lonely.
  • Married respondents were less likely to be lonely than single respondents.
  • People who lived in their current home for less than a year were more likely to feel lonely.
  • Loneliness was linked to poor health.
  • Individuals with higher incomes were less likely to be lonely.

Isolation, Loneliness, and Health

Being emotionally isolated is as high a risk factor for dying and/or health problems as smoking. Some of the physical ills associated with being isolated and/or lonely include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Obesity
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Alcoholism
  • Cancer (Tumors metastasize more rapidly in lonely individuals)

Activities To Curtail Loneliness

There are steps that isolated, older individuals can take themselves to be less lonely, and most include forming more social connections. If a person is recently retired, widowed, or has just moved to a new home, it may take time to build social relationships, but the efforts will be well worth it in terms of physical wellbeing, emotional health, and quality of life. Some activities that curtail loneliness include:

  • Attending religious services
  • Volunteering
  • Participating in community organizations
  • Spending time on hobbies
  • Taking classes

What Family Members Can Do

In addition to the above activities that elder individuals can take part in to curb their own loneliness and isolation, family members can help their grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles too. For example, younger family members can:

  • Call more often
  • Write letters
  • Stop by to visit
  • Invite the older individual to outings
  • Use senior-friendly technology to communicate with their loved ones

Loneliness and social isolation aren’t just uncomfortable; they’re deadly. Human beings are social animals and they need to be in the company of one another.

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Loneliness and Isolation Can Kill Grandparents