Everyone enjoys a little alone time. However, far too many seniors spend the majority of their senior years feeling lonely and isolated. The connection is clear, loneliness and isolation actually affect the way our brains function, and the less social connection you have the greater your health risks.
Decreased cognitive & executive functions (evidence of increased amyloid burden in the brain of the lonely)
Decreased quality of sleep
Decreased immune function leading to increased vulnerability to disease
Increased severity of strokes including shortened survival
Decrease in sense of overall well-being
Increased Chronic Inflammatory disease (linked to cognitive decline & dementia)
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
26% increased risk of mortality
Studies began documenting the correlation between loneliness and illness over 30 years ago. Dr. Bullock indicates social isolation as a major risk factor for mortality, illness and injury. Shockingly as significant as risks from smoking, obesity and high blood pressure.
Three steps to help you cope:
Get around people– neighbors, friends, family, AHC Home Care, hire a companion, join a club, start a new hobby or volunteer. Chat up a storm at the grocery store, pharmacy or out for a walk and make sure you accept any invites, just being out in public is good for you, at a park, or library. Pets are great if you can manage their upkeep safely, they provide unconditional love and companionship.
Start exercising- take a group class, go for a walk, take an online class, gardening. Exercise gets top marks for alleviating what ails you. The longer someone has been lonely the harder it is to make the effort to say hello to people. Exercise is a two for one deal; it gets you out to be around other people and it lowers your risk for falls and overall health.
Feed your brain- Crosswords puzzles, online course reading a new book, online games, board games or cards are all great ways to keep your brain active. It is a common problem for lonely seniors to get caught in a rut thinking about their own troubles. Switching your frame of reference to other peoples challenges, can help lighten your own loneliness. Try volunteering.
Treating loneliness is a challenge, it has become so common, many have just accepted it as a natural part of aging. We all have the ability to make change, if you find yourself in need of companionship The Mad Tasker can assist you in finding a phenomenal person.
People are the prescription for loneliness!