As we age, family and friends may move away, and getting around may become difficult, making us feel lonely and isolated. These feelings are common; statistics show loneliness impacts some 20 million seniors.1 While the effects of loneliness and isolation can be severe, there are ways to reduce them. We will look at how loneliness and isolation can impact seniors and how senior independent living in Shoreline, Washington, can help them overcome these feelings.
A Closer Look at Loneliness & Isolation in Seniors
While loneliness and isolation are similar, some key differences exist.2 Loneliness refers to the pain we feel when our social connections don’t meet our needs, while isolation is having fewer social contacts, which can lead to loneliness.
Seniors may feel isolated and alone if they live alone and have lost friends or neighbors with whom they used to stay in contact. These feelings don’t come all at once. They tend to mount as situations arise.
Some seniors begin spending more time at home if they have trouble getting around, which sometimes starts a vicious cycle. They may feel embarrassed or scared of going out for fear of falling or people looking at them if they have a walking aid. This leads to them staying at home more, even if they want to be out spending time with others.
For others, the fear of returning home and being alone again after having a fun time out is enough for them not to want to go out in the first place. These scenarios are common among seniors as they deal with loneliness and isolation.
Effects of Loneliness & Isolation Among Seniors
Loneliness and isolation among seniors can have far-reaching effects. Research shows that social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that can compete with smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.3 Loneliness and isolation can also significantly impact a senior’s physical and mental health.
Greater Risk of Dementia
Studies have shown that seniors who feel socially isolated have a greater risk of developing dementia.4 Socially isolated seniors have smaller social networks, live alone, and don’t have a chance to participate in many social activities. Researchers believe this could decrease cognitive development, contributing to the increased risk of dementia.
Increased Health Risks
Being lonely has been linked to increased health risks such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and a weakened immune system.5 Statistics show that social isolation and loneliness were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.3
Mental Health Impact
Lonely seniors can also see their mental health deteriorate as it can cause depression. This depression can make them stay home even more. It can also impact hygiene and nutrition. When people are depressed, they tend to not take care of themselves as well, skip meals, or eat unhealthy foods.
Combatting Loneliness and Isolation in Seniors
When considering the severe impact loneliness and isolation can have on seniors, it’s essential to look at ways to combat them.
Invite People to Visit & Stay
Inviting people to come over to visit can help prevent feelings of loneliness. Instead of a one-time stop, make a recurring weekly visit. This will provide an event to look forward to and allow seniors to have some social interaction.
Look for New Interests
Finding new interests at a local senior center can help to keep busy and make new friends. This can expand a senior’s social network and lead to new hobbies. As seniors look for new hobbies, they are also helping their cognitive skills, which can decrease their chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.
One good way to combat feelings of loneliness is to keep moving. Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel good. There are many low-intensity workouts seniors can still take part in, even if they have trouble getting around. The key is to find activities that allow you to move as much as possible.
Make Digital Connections
While technology is not a substitute for face-to-face interactions, it can help seniors stay in touch with family members far away. Video phone calls allow family members to see each other when distance makes it difficult.
How Independent Living Can Help Seniors Battle Loneliness
Exploring independent living options is one of the best ways for seniors to battle loneliness and isolation. Independent living is a good option for seniors who can still care for their daily needs but may lack companionship. This environment is not for those who need assisted living aid or the kind of help offered in a nursing home (skilled nursing facility).
Independent living allows seniors to have their own living space but access to amenities and activities to help them remain social. This can prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation.
In an independent living community for seniors, many opportunities exist to participate in activities and events with other seniors. Many people in this setting are in the same situation and have the same goals. They may not have family nearby and want to be where it is easy to talk to and spend time with others.
Making a Move to Independent Living
Moving to senior independent living in Silverdale and Shoreline, WA, can be difficult for some. They may think they will be perceived as sick or unable to care for themselves. The opposite is true. People in these communities take the best care of themselves because they make decisions that will keep them healthy and active.
There are also stigmas surrounding independent living, including seniors being forced to move. Many decide on their own for different reasons. The benefits of independent living can far outweigh living at home alone and worrying about maintenance, bills, and other responsibilities. While independent living can take some adjusting, it provides a safe, stress-free, and active environment for seniors to live and socialize.
Encore Communities: Explore Senior Independent Living in Silverdale and Shoreline, Washington
Encore Communities offers senior independent living in Silverdale and Shoreline, Washington, and surrounding areas for seniors looking for a new place to call home. Our independent living options are available at our Country Meadows (Silverdale) and Laurel Cove Communities (Shoreline).
Residents can enjoy spacious one- or two-bedroom cottages, covered parking, gas fireplaces, and roomy front porches at the Country Meadows site in Silverdale, WA. While seniors live independently, each residence features a call system that directly communicates with our staff, who can help with any urgent needs and maintenance or meal delivery.
The Laurel Cove Community in Shoreline, WA, provides studio or one-bedroom apartments and transportation to area attractions. There is a complete list of ongoing activities, giving seniors plenty of opportunities to meet new people and try new things.
Contact us today to learn more about Encore Communities’ independent living options. Let us show you independent living at its best!
Dan is Vice President, Marketing of the Alumus family of companies. A Seattle native, he earned his BA in Humanities and Political Science at Evergreen State College. He started his career as a newspaper columnist, eventually transitioning into marketing and tech writing for Microsoft and several other startups. He later launched a successful creative agency focused on branding, digital marketing, and content production in Los Angeles, where he worked for several nursing and behavioral health clients, eventually becoming the National Marketing Director for one of them.
He has taught Vipassana mindfulness meditation and MBSR and spends whatever free time he has with his son snowboarding, hiking, and camping in the mountains.