Elder Isolation and Mental Health

Elder Isolation and Mental Health

February 28 2023 TalktoAngel 0 comments 806 Views

The terms "social isolation" and "loneliness," though related, have slightly different definitions.

Social isolation is a deficiency in meaningful interaction with people. This is an objective measurement because it is quantifiable how many contacts a person has. Contrarily, loneliness is a personal experience in which one feels alone. A person may have many contacts yet still feel lonely, or they may have few contacts but still feel pleased.

Among older adults, social isolation and loneliness are very common.

Age alone does not enhance the likelihood of feeling socially isolated or lonely; these feelings can affect anyone, regardless of age. The physical changes that come with aging, the death of close family and friends, and retirement from the workforce all increase the risk factors for social isolation and loneliness in older persons. These elements may cause social circles to contract and one's number of valuable contacts to decline.

The following are just a few of the major risk factors for loneliness and social isolation:

1. Living Alone

Many older persons cherish their independence and do not live with children or other family members, especially in Western societies. As adults get older, they have a higher possibility of losing a partner, which increases their likelihood of living alone.

2. Chronic disease/illness

Having at least one chronic ailment frequently has physical consequences that make it challenging for people to leave their homes. Additionally, a lot of people who have complicated medical needs indicate that going to the doctor frequently and needing intervention takes up all of their free time, leaving little time for maintaining relationships.

3. Impairment of the senses, such as loss of hearing or vision

It may be challenging to communicate with others if you have a vision or hearing problems. Mobility can be reduced by sensory loss, which can cause driving privileges to be suspended and make it challenging to use public transportation.

4. Depression or anxiety

Adults with anxiety or depression are more likely to experience social isolation and loneliness. Even when their social networks contain a large number of high-quality contacts, older persons with anxiety problems are more prone to experience loneliness.

5. Dementia

A possible symptom of dementia and cognitive impairment is a tendency to withdraw from social situations. As a memory, language, and reasoning abilities deteriorate, people frequently lose interest in activities.

6. Taking care of others

Family caregivers are more likely to experience social isolation and loneliness when taking care of someone who has challenging mobility requirements or cognitive impairment. To meet the responsibilities of their caregiving duty, caregivers frequently forgo other societal contacts like work or hobby organizations. If the person they are caring for passes away, caregivers run the risk of being even more isolated and lonely, especially if their social network has shrunk over the course of the caregiving.

What effects do loneliness and social isolation have on our health?

Many of the above-discussed risk factors for loneliness and social isolation are thought to be reciprocal, with loneliness and isolation aggravating the circumstances that further isolate the person.

Research demonstrates unequivocally that older persons who experience social isolation and/or loneliness have a higher chance of dying young.

In addition, loneliness and social isolation are related to:

  • Greater likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke

The association between social isolation and loneliness and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke, without regard to other risk factors, is perhaps one of the most alarming discoveries of this research. Weak social ties are as dangerous as well-known risk factors including obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, and substance misuse, increasing the risk of CVD and stroke by 29% and 32%, respectively. Along with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, social isolation and loneliness are risk factors for CVD and stroke.

  • Increased likelihood of cognitive aging

Older persons who lack social connections are more likely to develop dementia, with the risk of dementia rising by as much as 50% in those who experience severe degrees of loneliness

  • Rising risk to mental health

The risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation is higher among older persons who are socially isolated and lonely. Regardless of age, sex, social class, or marital status, this risk continues to be high.

  • Increased likelihood of abuse and violence

Elder abuse and violence are more likely to occur and be committed by older people who are socially isolated. Abuse of the elderly is associated with emotional pain, dislocation, and at its worst, risks to life and bodily safety. In the setting of social isolation and loneliness, the COVID-19 crisis has raised the likelihood of elder abuse.

What are some ways to combat loneliness and social isolation in older people?

Older individuals are hardly a homogeneous group, and the causes of social isolation and loneliness are many. Therefore, addressing social isolation and loneliness in older individuals requires a multifaceted collaborative strategy.

  • Interventions at the individual and peer levels

An individual's social relationships can be strengthened and harmful health effects can be avoided by identifying older persons who are at risk for social isolation and loneliness and linking them to programs. Peer support groups, for instance, can help older folks connect with one another and promote relationship preservation.

By addressing the risk factors, loneliness, and social isolation can be prevented. For instance, identifying older persons with hearing loss and ensuring they have access to the right devices would help to lessen the effect hearing loss has on social interactions.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital interventions, such as teaching senior citizens how to use digital tools to connect with others, are of particular interest. Attending training in this field also gives you the chance to make new.

Many people begin to perceive social interaction as frightening and hazardous as they become more socially isolated. This worsens the issue by discouraging people even more from stepping outside of their comfort zone and forming new relationships. In certain circumstances, medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or mindfulness instruction may be beneficial.

  • Online Geriatric Counselling

Going to an experienced Geriatric Counsellor/therapist can make all the difference to tackle social isolation.

Contact TalktoAngel, Asia's top mental health platform, whether you are looking for a "Psychologist near me" or the Best Therapist in India for Online Counselling.

Contributed By- Dr (Prof) R K SuriBest Clinical Psychologist & Life Coach & Ms. Varshini Nayyar, Psychologist

 



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