Social Isolation: The Hidden Problem

Here is some new information regarding the level of social isolation of older adults as well as the impact this has on health and the aging process.

According to census data, 50% of women over the age of 75 live alone.

Here are the three biggest areas of older adult wellbeing impacted by social isolation and loneliness:
*Unmet basic needs-food, medicine, medical care

*Psychological impact-despair and humiliation, increased risk of cognitive decline. (Interesting note:there is some research that shows strong neighborhood social networks may lessen the “widow effect “the well-established finding that one spouse dis shortly following the other.

*Physical impact-higher mortality, less likely recovery from severe mobility limitations. Even when the research controlled for socioeconomic status and health, the lonely had higher mortality.

What can be done?  I once again consulted my lovely and talented mother to collaborate on this topic, since it is related to her post she called Reaching Out.  She is an older adult and has been living alone since my Dad passed away 8 years ago.  Here is what we came up with as action steps you can take to help:

1.  Know your neighbors-take time out of busy schedules to introduce yourself and check in and include them in events.  Don’t underestimate the significance of even a small effort or a brief interaction. Get contact numbers.  Elders can give each other a lot of support by looking out for each other.
2.  Research transportation and activity options for neighbors and friends. See Eldercare Locator link below.
3. Support and volunteer for community agencies who are helping seniors.
4.  Contact county Elder Abuse agency if you feel the situation is dangerous.  There is a type of “elder abuse” called self neglect, which makes up many of their referrals.  Here is a link to an Elder Care locator to find County Elder Abuse agencies and resources.
Link to Eldercare locator
IMPORTANT NOTE:  The Milwaukee County Department on Aging has initiated a public awareness campaign to increase awareness of this important issue.  Some of this information was drawn from their sources, in addition to the Area Agency on Aging website. (same link as Eldercare Locator). 

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

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