Loneliness and isolation can be as big of a health concern for senior citizens as heart disease, arthritis, or osteoporosis. Seniors are more susceptible to social isolation and loneliness. As they grow older their social network shrinks: spouses pass away, friends get sick, or people move away.
Seniors are at Risk for Social Isolation
Social isolation is described as a lack of contact with friends, family, and community organizations. Additionally, loneliness is defined as a lack of companionship and social contact. As many as four out of ten people over 65 years of age live alone – it is easy to see that senior social isolation is becoming such a large health concern for this population. According to a research study by University of Phoenix, it is estimated that 75% of all seniors will face social isolation by 2020. Social isolation not only has negative impacts on individual’s quality of life and mental well-being, but also has adverse effects on the healthcare system as seniors’ overall health deteriorate and become more dependent on health and social care services.
Many elderly people are no longer able to drive, which means they are also no longer able to pursue hobbies or attend events at local senior centers. Television is described as the main form of company and many only interact with home delivery workers. This kind of isolation can have major negative consequences on one’s health. Loneliness and social isolation can lead to depression, over eating/drinking, eating too little, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even premature death.
How to Avoid Senior Social Isolation
However, there are many ways to prevent and reduce senior social isolation. While there are services that will come visit senior citizens in their home, or provide transportation to a local senior center, engaging in social media remains one of the best and most cost effective options for curtailing loneliness and isolation. Social media is certainly not a replacement for face-to-face contact but it is the next best option.
Social Media and Senior Social Isolation
Participating in social media provides an immediate sense of connectivity for most senior citizens; they are able to stay in contact with friends and family across the world. This interaction services as a great buffer for depression and feelings of isolation. Not only can seniors connect with friends and family but they can also use social media to access health information and receive social support, especially when dealing with a chronic condition or ill spouse. This is contributing to the decrease in the number of chronically disabled senior citizens who require assisted living care.
Social media is becoming increasingly popular among seniors and the percentage of people over the age of 65 using social media is increasing each year. 43% of Americans senior citizens use at least one social media site, compared with 26% in 2010 and 1% in 2008. Increasingly senior simply have the skills to adopt and use social media and there are many programs and classes (in the home and at senior centers) available to teach those who don’t yet have the skills.