If an individual lives with feelings of loneliness, this has negative implications on health, life, and survival. A recent report by the US Census Bureau shows that nearly two-thirds of all seniors live by themselves. This figure represents about 14 million seniors aging alone. Ideally, senior isolation is both dangerous and common. Even though living alone doesn’t necessarily lead to loneliness, both factors go along.
Seniors’ loneliness levels may skyrocket, especially when seniors are being advised to stay in their homes. This is primarily caused by the effects of the current global pandemic. Loneliness has severe consequences for cognition, wellbeing, and health. Health and psychology experts warn that this is not something that can be ignored.
This post looks at four primary reasons seniors are getting lonelier by the day.
Lack of Transport
As you age, you may get to a stage where you can no longer drive for health reasons. Or perhaps you’re not in a position to own a car. Whatever reason it is, transport plays a pivotal role in our lives regardless of age. For seniors who struggle with mobility, the team at UpliftingMobility.com recommends getting equipment that eases your mobility from one place to the other. For seniors living in rural areas, transport may also be limited. If you’re not able to leave your house as often as you’d wish, this reduces social interactions.
In the long-term, such withdrawal from social circles can lead to feelings of social isolation. Social isolation may increase significantly attributed to the COVID-19 measures of social distancing that have been enforced globally. This means we can expect to see more lonely seniors before the ban on social distancing is lifted.
Low Levels of Income and Education
This is a critical factor that makes the elderly susceptible to loneliness. Typically, a low education level will automatically lead to poor or low income. This is also attributed to the working life of the elderly. If one had a low education level, the pay would differ from an individual whose education level was high.
Ideally, high education levels lead to the opportunity of making more social contacts, and in the long run, this increases the social network of the seniors even in retirement. A person with high education levels will still have an increased number of social contacts compared to a person who received bare or no education at all. For such individuals, the basic pension they receive is relatively low. With such a low income, this reduces social interaction and may lead to social loneliness. It gets worse if the senior is sick and he or she cannot fend or medicate themselves.
Health (Mental and Physical)
Poor mental health and especially depression is a risk factor for loneliness among the elderly. From a medical perspective, depression is a health condition associated with loneliness. In many cases, most seniors are treated without doctors considering that loneliness might be the root of the problem. However, you should understand that not all lonely people are depressed. In contrast, not all depressed people are lonely. Also, an increase in loneliness affects the physical health of an individual.
Many seniors cannot engage in outdoor activities or handle day-to-day duties such as going to the bank or shopping. Many seniors need help with these daily activities, increasing loneliness as many are primarily confined to their homes. In the long-term, unfulfilled expectations from social contacts will mainly affect the psychological wellbeing of the seniors. This is a vital dimension that needs to be addressed as seniors age to curb social isolation.
Many seniors might not live near friends or their families. This happens if one needs to reside in a care home where choices of location might be limited. In modern life, many families are geographically scattered. In most cases, extended families live further apart because of jobs or family issues. As such, seniors find themselves living alone as the children are out building a life for themselves. They will occasionally get a few yearly visits, especially during Christmas, which will only last a couple of days.
For the more significant part of the year, chances are they’re spending time alone. This increases feelings of social isolation, and feelings of loneliness may begin to creep in. As we mentioned above, extended periods of loneliness may lead to a series of psychological health conditions.
While these four reasons are the primary cause of seniors’ loneliness, some other factors are also at play. Loneliness may also be caused by grief or medical conditions like degenerative brain disorder. During grief, loneliness may set in after the loss of a partner. Additionally, feelings of loneliness can also set in if your better-half moves into a care home and you’re left alone.