Isolation is common in elderly people, who may lose mobility as they age or increasingly seek a mellow life, enjoying their home and the peace it offers after the rigors of youth and middle age.
Loneliness is twice more likely to lead to premature death than obesity and has nearly the same impact as low-income status.
- 18 percent of seniors live alone, while 43 percent report feeling lonely on a regular basis, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
- Lonely seniors are more likely to decline and die faster. The UCSF study also found that people 60-years-old and older who reported feeling lonely saw a 45 percent increase in their risk for death. Isolated elders also had a 59 percent greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social counterparts.
- 1 in 7 people with Alzheimer’s disease lives alone, according to a recently released report from the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Loneliness is contagious. Older adults who feel lonely are more prone to behave in ways that may cause other people do not want to be around them. Psychologists from the University of Chicago who analyzed data from the Farmingham Heart Study, a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular study, found that solitary seniors have a tendency to further isolate themselves by pushing people away and not making efforts to engage with others.
And, the biggest surprise of all?
Two-thirds of the older adults in the UCSF study who said that they were lonely were either married or living with a partner of some kind. This finding lends credence to the belief that it’s not about how many relationships you have—it’s about how meaningful they are.
Taking steps to make your elderly loved ones less lonely could help them live longer and enjoy the remaining days of their lives!