Nearly one-quarter of adults over age 65 are socially isolated, according to a national report. Social isolation is more than loneliness. It’s the lack of social contacts and the absence of regular interaction with others.
Undoubtedly, the social distancing and quarantining brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally affected older adults — a population already vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness.
But social isolation can increase older adults’ risk for chronic illness, dementia and heart disease. A lack of social connection can also cause extreme loneliness, leading to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Why do so many people feel isolated?
While social media, smartphones and video chat technology make it easy to keep in touch, loneliness remains at an all-time high.
Factors impacting social isolation among older adults may include:
- Hearing or vision loss
- Lack of transportation
- Memory loss
- Mobility changes
- Smaller social circles
3 ways to overcome social isolation
As the over-65 population grows, loneliness and social isolation will remain a problem. But resources and strategies can help you or a loved one overcome the feeling of social isolation.
1. Find new activities to enjoy.
If you feel isolated, you may have no reason to leave your house. Pursuing a hobby or volunteering for an important cause can add variety to your day. Consider joining a book club or social club. Being active can help you meet others and learn new things.
2. Schedule time to catch up with family or friends.
In a busy world, socialization may not happen as often as it used to. Planning makes it easier. Try making specific plans with friends or loved ones. Schedule a call or video chat, write a letter or email. Having a set plan makes everyone more likely to follow through.
3. Find someone to check in on you regularly.
Ask a family member, friend or neighbor to check in on you. Knowing someone will visit regularly may offer you peace of mind and ease your loneliness.
No matter how isolated you feel, you’re not alone
Social interaction is a basic human need. Though some older adults may not mind being alone, many need regular connections. If you feel lonely or isolated, remember you can make changes or reach out to others. Asking for help is a great first step toward making meaningful connections and improving your health and quality of life.