Loneliness becomes more and more of a risk as you get older, and it can be harmful for your mental health. Preparing yourself for loneliness in each developmental stage can help mitigate the mental and physical impact it can have.
Why is this important?
- Research shows that up to one-third of people over the age of 45 feel lonely.
- As we get older, we’re more at risk for losing close relationships due to location, life circumstances, immobility, and death.
- Loneliness and social isolation has been linked to worse physical health for seniors, including increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Loneliness and social isolation as an older adult is associated with an increased risk of depression and a 64 percent higher chance of developing dementia.
- Loneliness can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
- Loneliness and social isolation can increase risk of mortality by 26 percent in older adults.
- Rates of loneliness are even higher for LGBTQ seniors.
Battling loneliness as an older adult:
- Use technology to battle loneliness. It’s understandably difficult to learn new technology at an advanced age, but many tools are incredibly user-friendly and can help seniors stay connected to their loved ones who live far away.
- If it’s within your physical and financial means, a pet is a great way to combat the effects of loneliness and isolation.
- Most cities have regional services that provide services for isolated older adults, including friend or visitor programs for companionship.
- Let the people around you know that you’re feeling lonely. Sometimes, all it takes is a little communication. Reach out and ask them for support.
- Join local interest groups. There are groups available for every hobby imaginable.
- Don’t dismiss intergenerational friendships. Young people can make great friends when you’re an older adult.
- If you’re trying to help an older loved one who is facing loneliness, communicate without being condescending. Let them know you’re worried about them, and offer to collaborate in coming up with solutions. Don’t make them feel forced to do anything they aren’t comfortable with.
Central for Disease Control and Prevention. Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html. Accessed April 14, 2021.
National Institute on Aging. Social isolation, loneliness in older adults pose health risks. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks. Accessed April 14, 2021.