According to the 2016 Census Bureau, nearly 28 percent of American residents 65 years and older lived alone. As we age, the chances of living alone only increase due to retirement, the death of friends and family members, and decreased mobility. While living alone is not causal of social isolation, it certainly doesn’t help prevent it. Social isolation may not seem like much of a problem to many people, there have been many studies that prove otherwise. Here, we will discuss a few isolation facts and what you can do to help.

Social isolation can affect physical and mental health.

Sometimes social isolation can seem like an endless circle! Many elderly people will claim that it is their physical and mental health that has caused the social isolation —grief over the loss of a loved one or a broken hip has kept them home. However, many studies have backed the theory that social isolation can lead to a decline in physical health and exacerbate mental health issues.

If you are elderly and live alone or you have a loved one who is elderly and lives alone, it is important to make sure they have some social involvement. If visits from friends and family are minimal, you can get out and engage in activities that interest you —exercise classes, crafting groups, or even bird watching at the park. Many elderly find value in volunteering their time to organizations that are dear to them. Going to church or learning something new can help too.

Loneliness and social isolation contributes to cognitive decline and increases the risk of dementia.

Humans are social creatures. We like to feel needed and included and we find self-worth in purpose. We have mentioned in previous articles that the brain is a muscle that must be exercised regularly to help prevent cognitive decline. However, when people feel lonely or suffer from social isolation, their will to learn and engage in activities typically declines. This lack of stimulation can lead to cognitive decline and increase the risk of dementia.

While experiencing the grief of loss or feeling lonely is sometimes unavoidable, remaining stimulated is still possible. It is normal to take some time to process grief, however reading, engaging in hobbies, and socializing are some ways to keep your mind active.

Transportation challenges are a significant barrier to preventing social isolation.

Physical and visual changes as we age can change the ability for the elderly to drive and get around unassisted. These challenges can make it difficult to get out of the house and can lead to social isolation. Many elderly take advantage of local transportation companies and Uber has created an UberHealth option to help get people to their medical appointments.

When transportation issues and physical limitation threaten to isolate the elderly at home, many people choose to start looking into assisted living community options. Assisted living facilities allow people to have a more active life and engage in social activities to keep residents involved and stimulated.

If you or your loved one is facing circumstances that can put you at risk of social isolation —physical limitations, loss of a spouse, or transportation challenges— consider making a new life and new friends at an assisted living facility. If you are already experiencing challenges with memory and cognitive decline, you can trust the care of a memory care assisted living facility. If you are looking for a memory care assisted living center in Dickenson, check out Serenity Gardens. We offer a plethora of activities and have special training in memory care. Contact us for more information or to schedule a tour of our facility today!