Showing posts with label loneliness in seniors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label loneliness in seniors. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Friends and Family Prolong Your Life

Are you looking for a fun, easy way to live longer?  According to research done at the University of California in San Francisco, and reported in the AARP Bulletin, spending more time with your friends and family can increase your life expectancy.  This is especially true since the Covid pandemic, when many people stopped socializing and some of them have never returned to the amount of socialization they did before.

The researchers followed 1,600 adults who had an average age of 71 at the beginning of the study.  They took into consideration their socioeconomic status and their overall health.  Those people who self-identified as being lonely consistently died at a higher frequency over the six years of the study.  During that period of time, 23 percent of the lonely people died; only 14 percent of those who were satisfied with their level of companionship died.

How Retirees can Increase their Socialization

Since loneliness can contribute to early death, it is important we take steps to make sure we do not become too isolated as we age ... which is easy to do when we no longer go to a job.  Below are a few suggestions for increasing the time we spend around other people, particularly after we retire.

1.  If you have relatives nearby, make sure you reach out to them and try to spend time together.  Your adult children and grandchildren can immeasurably enrich your life.  If you are not retired yet, but have older relatives or siblings who live in your area, plan activities which include them.

2.   If you live in a mixed age community and no longer spend much time with your neighbors, make an effort to get to know them.  An occasional block party or neighborhood ice cream social benefits people of all ages.

3.   Find out if your community has a senior center.  They often have exercise classes, parties, dances and, sometimes, low-cost lunches which seniors can enjoy in the company of other people.

4.   Call your local community college to see if they offer classes for senior citizens.  Many colleges offer emeritus classes which are either free or very low cost.  Going to classes which you enjoy is a fun way to meet other people with similar interests.  Suggest a few of you go out to lunch or for coffee either before or after your classes so you can get to know each other better. 

5.    Make an effort to join a club, organization or place of worship.  Participating in these organizations can help you stay connected with other people.  The more involved you are, the better off you will be.  It is not enough to attend an occasional club meeting or church service.  Volunteer.  Join a committee.  Go to social events.  These experiences will enrich your life.

6.  Regularly speak with your friends and neighbors.  You may even want to set up a specific time every day, or several times a week, when you call and chat with a friend.  If one of you doesn't answer and there is no explanation for the absence, agree that you will contact family members, a neighbor, or local police so someone will do a "welfare check" on you.  It will bring you and your friends peace-of-mind if you all know that you are looking out for each other.

7.   Do not rebel against the idea of moving to an independent or assisted living facility.  While some people still have a negative image of these living arrangements, sometimes comparing them to old-style nursing homes, the truth is that most people thrive in these facilities.  Today's senior housing facilities have a wide variety of fun amenities and provide an excellent opportunity to socialize and make friends.

Remember:  Being sociable not only makes you happier and improves your outlook, but can prolong your life.  The more involved you are with other people on a regular basis, the better off you will be.

If you want to learn more about common health issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire, changing family relationships, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Loneliness and Isolation During Retirement

One of the things that often happens after we retire is that we lose the structure and social life that has kept us busy and involved during our working years.  Our life changes when we no longer have to go to work.  If it is raining, we no longer have to go out.  If someone in a club or organization irritates us, we stop going.  If we get the sniffles, we stay home.  We tell ourselves that there is no reason to make ourselves go out when we don't need to.  However, all too often, retirees can end up becoming more and more isolated as the years go by.  Eventually, the loneliness can actually ruin any chance you had to have a happy retirement.

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.

Loneliness Survey from the "Sixty and Me" Website
Another website, called Sixty and Me, did their own survey on loneliness during 2020, when most Americans were experiencing limitations on travel, socializing, and seeing friends or family. The results of their survey was particularly interesting because of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. They discovered that people were experiencing significantly more loneliness during the pandemic and, during this update to this article in December, 2020, many of these people continue to experience feelings of isolation. Below are some of the fact their readers reported:

Some key statistics:

87% reported feeling lonely at least sometimes which is a 12% increase from 
our 2019 survey.

78% said COVID-19 (and social restrictions) amplified feelings of 
48% said they've used video calls for the first 
time during the pandemic.

68% reported that exercise and getting outdoors is their number 1 way to 
tackle feelings of loneliness.

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 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:

If you are planning to retire soon or you have recently retired, use the tabs at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of additional articles to help you with your retirement planning.

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