Loneliness isn’t something that only affect older adults. With new technology and people living further apart, it can be easy to feel lonely. But it’s something to keep an eye on because one in three older adults reports feeling lonely, which can lead to a lot of issues including increased risks of heart attacks, depression, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and poor overall health.
What are risk factors for feeling isolated?
- Living alone (60% of people living alone felt lonely)
- Being unemployed
- Living in low-income housing
- Having one or more children at home
- Women are also more likely than men to feel isolated
Interestingly, the connection seems to go both ways. When asked about whether they felt isolated, older adults with poor health (either physical and/or mental) were more likely to say that they were lonely than their peers who had healthier lifestyles (26% vs 13%).
According to a new report by NPR, hearing loss can lead to feeling isolated. Older adults that experience hearing loss may not seek out hearing aids because they’re self-conscious or assume the hearing aids are out of their price range. Frustrated by not being able to hear clearly or participate in conversations, many older adults with hearing loss withdraw and stop going to senior centers and other social outlets. If they continue to go, they may have difficulty interacting with others who assume that the older adult with hearing loss is ignoring them.
So, what can be done?
- Living a healthy lifestyle can lead to a feeling less isolated
- Get your hearing checked if you’re having issues (hearing aids can be so small they’re not noticeable!)
- Get out in the community if possible- volunteer, join a club, or go to religious activities
- If you feel lonely don’t rely on solitary activities (e.g., watching tv) to make you feel better
If you’re a caregiver or family member make sure you’re there for your loved one. Call or visit them often so they feel like you’re a part of their life.