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Social Isolation in Seniors: What it is and How to Combat it

Emotional Wellbeing | May 1, 2023

An isolated senior sitting in a chair and looking out the window.

Building and maintaining friendships can become increasingly more difficult as we age. As our social circles begin to shrink, we become vulnerable to losing valuable connections to our communities and friends.

Because of this, seniors can oftentimes find themselves at risk of social isolation. Social isolation occurs when seniors have limited social contact with family, friends, and community members, resulting in feelings of loneliness and disconnect. Humans are social creatures, and the bonds we form with one another are vital to living a long and healthy life.

Ready to figure out how to help your loved one avoid social isolation? We’ll break down what you need to know, as well as best practices to help your loved one maintain a healthy social life throughout their retirement.

What is Social Isolation and Loneliness in Seniors?

When older adults have limited social contact with others, they can feel isolated and alone. Social isolation can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Living alone
  • Mobility issues
  • Lack of transportation
  • Financial constraints
  • Health problems
  • The loss of a spouse or close friend

While social isolation is a lack of social connection or regular interaction with others, loneliness – on the other hand – is the painful feeling of being alone. Social isolation is a situation that many seniors can face, while loneliness is an emotional side-effect of that situation.

It is important to note that some seniors may be isolated from social groups, but do not feel lonely. Certain seniors enjoy living alone and spending most of their time by themselves. The opposite can also be true. Some seniors can be active in their communities and still feel lonely and depressed. The impact of social isolation on seniors can vary from person to person, so try your best to understand your loved ones’ needs to help them determine their best course of action.

Loneliness can have significant effects on your physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Therefore, it is important to notice the signs of isolation early to help avoid negative effects such as:

  • Physical illness
  • Depression
  • Cognitive decline
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

How to Combat Social Isolation in Seniors

Everyone needs regular social interaction to stay in good mental health, but it’s even more important for seniors. While staying social with your loved one is important, it is equally important to encourage them to stay social in their community. Here are six activities for isolated seniors to help combat loneliness.

Join a Social Club

Joining a social club can be one of the best ways to feel connected and meet new people who share common interests. Clubs are also a great way to add more structure to the week, giving your loved one something to look forward to on a recurring basis.

Retirement communities and local organizations frequently host fun and engaging events for seniors. From religious organizations to veteran clubs, there are a wide array of organizations that your loved one can take part in.

Dine with Neighbors and Friends

Sharing meals with friends and family is a big deal for many seniors, so regularly eating alone can increase feelings of loneliness. It is important for seniors to share a meal with others whenever possible, whether it’s with a church group, the local senior center, or at a friendly local diner.

Join an Exercise Class

Exercising in a group setting is a fun way to maintain physical fitness and prevent senior isolation. Classes are a great way to meet other seniors as well as have some accountability for their health. On top of that, exercise and movement release endorphins that make us feel better and even help to reduce stress. Exercise is especially beneficial to seniors as it helps them increase flexibility and stay mobile throughout their retirement.

Call or Video Chat with Family

If your loved one lives far from friends and family, they might benefit from frequent calls and video chats to stay in regular contact. Newer phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices have webcams built in that allow for video chatting so that you can talk face-to-face instead of just speaking over the phone. You can even make it a family event by encouraging other relatives and friends to call in.

Connect with Neighbors

Whether they have recently moved or haven’t gotten the chance to yet, your loved one should get to know their neighbors. Neighbors can make great support networks and make your loved one feel connected to their community. Not only is this a chance for social interaction but can also give them peace of mind to know that a friendly face is right around the corner.

Take Advantage of Transportation Services

Some seniors are unable to drive, which can cause social isolation and boredom. Finding sources of transportation, whether that’s your friends, family, or a senior shuttle service, can help your loved one drastically. With access to transportation, they can now visit friends, go shopping, see a movie, and explore their community.

A Community-Based Solution for Seniors

It’s difficult to be lonely when you’re surrounded by kind neighbors, friends, and caretakers. If your elderly parents need help finding the right senior living community, you can turn to National Church Residences. We take an individual approach to support seniors and help them live a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.