As the holiday season approaches, plans to be with family and friends can make most people feel a sense of cheer and excitement. However, older adults may find themselves feeling isolated and depressed during this time of year. For many older adults, the holidays represent a time of sadness due to the loss of family members and loved ones or an incapacitating illness. The absence of social interaction can also contribute to vulnerable feelings of loneliness. Changes in community or surroundings can be contributing factors. Inclement weather, which tends to keep people indoors, can also be a contributing factor because it makes travel and socializing outside of the home difficult for older adults during the holidays.
Articles in Category: Social Isolation
It’s important for older patients with chronic conditions to stay physically active, and be aware of the benefits of social health and socialization. Social interaction can be just as effective as exercise at improving mood and quality of life. Staying socially active can help maintain good physical and emotional health as well as cognitive function. Older patients with chronic disease maintaining social interactions on a daily basis reduce their risk for cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, or depression.
Unfortunately, isolation among older adults continues to be a common concern. About 1 out of 3 older persons lives alone, half of whom are women. Social isolation can lead to being less physically active and feeling lonely. Maintaining healthy relationships that reinforce connection and social support is an important part of healthy aging. Continuous interaction with peers and family can sharpen the mind, and provides a better sense of belonging and connection.
Social interaction is important for getting and staying healthy. Older adults are at increased risk of being socially isolated or lonely. Many older adults live alone because either children and grandchildren may have moved away, family estrangement, aging siblings and friends, or person closest to them may have passed away. For older adults, and those with complex health conditions, social interaction offers many benefits. Research has shown that developing and nurturing interpersonal relationships and staying socially active can help older adults maintain good physical and emotional health and cognitive function. Older adults with close friendships, supportive family ties, or that interact socially in other ways live longer than those who are socially isolated.
Older adults with a seemingly large social network or active social life can still experience loneliness. For older adults, loneliness may be related to feelings of low self-esteem, depressive symptoms or distress over not having enough social relationships or not enough social interaction. As a result of both social isolation and prolonged feelings of loneliness patients can experience exacerbated health and deteriorated cognitive function.