Do you feel lonely?

Do you feel lonely?

One in four older adults say they feel isolated from other people at least some of the time, and one in three say they lack regular companionship, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging. Feelings of loneliness, or the difference between an individual’s preferred and actual social connection, not only impact your happiness – they can present real health problems, as well.

“Many elderly individuals feel they lack meaningful connection and are no longer valuable facets of their community. Individuals who feel as though no one is concerned for them or cares for their well-being tend to ignore their health,” says Taylor Villwock, an Aurora Health Care nurse practitioner who specializes in care for older adults.

“The death of a spouse or partner, geographical separation from family members, loss of friends, impaired mobility and lack of transportation place seniors at risk for social isolation,” she says. “Isolation or self-perceived loneliness can lead to a decline in pre-existing conditions. Loneliness and solitude may contribute to poor cognitive performance and faster cognitive decline.”

As human lifespans have gotten longer, more research and effort has been put toward the goal of helping those longer years be healthy ones. Addressing loneliness is one way aging adults can live well. So what are some ways you can build this sense of connection, or help a senior you know?

Taylor recommends encouraging social connections among seniors through participation in senior center activities or transitioning to an assisted living community.

“Additionally, referring isolated seniors to transportation services is a simple, yet impactful intervention that improves access and community involvement,” she says.

Some other ideas: Pets can offer companionship and provide a sense of purpose. Taylor also encourages older adults to start a hobby or pick up an old one.

“Many hobbies are inherently social in nature, and they foster motivation,” she says.

Loneliness as a health condition needs more attention and awareness. But with a solid link between meaningful social connection and improved well-being, even small steps that help older adults build a connection are a step forward.

“Our connection to others gives us a sense of purpose and ultimately enables us to survive and thrive,” Taylor says.

Want to learn more?

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Comments

One Comment

  1. I’m extremely lonely and hopeless. Is there anyone in Michigan that would help me?

About the Author

Heather Van Roo
Heather Van Roo

Heather Van Roo is a member of Advocate Aurora Health’s public affairs team in Milwaukee, WI. She has been a health care storyteller in the Greater Milwaukee Area for more than ten years. Outside of work, she adores her family, walks with her dog and teaches recreational ballet and tap dance.