As someone who lives in a retirement community, I see this happen all the time. Some of the people on the street where I live rarely come out. As the years have gone by, they have become more and more reclusive. While isolation does not have to be inevitable, we all have to take actions to prevent isolation for ourselves and the other senior citizens in our family. Below are some of the things you need to know about isolation in retirement.
Common Facts About Isolation in Senior Citizens
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28% of Americans over the age of 65 lived alone in 2010. The older you become, the more likely you are to live alone.
Loneliness affects your mental and physical health and can shorten your life. It also contributes to dementia and depression. These are all good reasons to make sure you do not let yourself become isolated.
Many retired adults do not have adult children who can take care of them. Some never had children; others outlived their children; still others have children who are not capable of caring for them because of distance, estrangement or other problems.
According to a study in Canada, about one-fifth of seniors do not participate in any outside activities, even as little as one time a month.
Isolated seniors are more likely to need long-term care.
Isolated people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking too much, eating too much and living a sedentary lifestyle.
Isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse, including verbal, physical or financial abuse by caregivers.
Finally, in those cases where a senior is being cared for by a family member or other caregiver, the caregiver risks becoming socially isolated, too. This, in turn, may contribute to the elder abuse, mentioned above.
How to Reduce Isolation after Retirement
Because of the negative impact that isolation has on your life and health, it is important that people take steps to prevent it as soon as they retire. Below are suggestions to help you have a full and enjoyable life after you stop working:
Make sure that convenient public transportation is available where you or your loved ones live. Good transportation is necessary for retirees so they can participate in activities even after they can no longer drive.
Living in a senior community tends to reduce social isolation, especially since most of these communities offer a wide variety of activities and services.
An alternative to living in a senior community is becoming active in a senior center in your neighborhood. Most mid-size towns and cities in the United States have at least one. Senior centers provide low-cost hot meals, arrange trips, organize bridge groups and other clubs, and offer a wide variety of classes that stimulate the mind or provide age-appropriate exercise.
Volunteering can help people feel needed, connected and involved in the world around them, as well as reduce their loneliness.
One of the most effective ways to reduce isolation is to take a class. Education and training stimulates the mind and has beneficial social aspects, as well.
Group physical activities have also been shown to reduce isolation. Not only is physical exercise good for your mental health, but exercising in a group also has a social aspect.
Joining clubs with members who enjoy activities that interest you is another way to avoid isolation ... whether the club is for hikers, photographers, sailors, or bridge players. You can often find clubs through your local community or senior center. Websites like Meetup.com can also help you find groups of people who enjoy going to movies, eating out, reading books, or participating in a wide variety of activities.
For seniors who are fortunate enough to have relatives living nearby, it is important that they invite the seniors to participate in family activities as often as possible. A friend of mine has a living 109 year old grandmother who lives in an assisted living facility not far from her home. She and her daughters pick up her grandmother every Sunday and take her to church and lunch. They also visit her regularly throughout the week. This helps keep her from feeling lonely and isolated.
Technology can also help retirees stay connected with the outside world. Whether it is getting a hearing aid, learning to Skype with distant relatives, or using special telephones for the hearing impaired, modern technology can be a useful part of a plan to reduce loneliness. AARP has also found seniors benefit when they learn to use social media, like Facebook, to stay in touch with family and friends.
For your health and longevity, it is important that recent retirees immediately begin to take steps to prevent loneliness and isolation. The quicker they get involved in new activities to keep them busy and engaged with other people after they stop working, the less likely they are to become reclusive as they age.
If you are retired or planning to retire soon, you need to remember that it is up to YOU to make sure that you are staying in touch with friends and family, participating in clubs, and joining groups that interest you. This is the best way to avoid becoming isolated and lonely as you age.
Learn more about social isolation in seniors from these articles:
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