Approximately one out of every three Americans aged 45 or older feel lonely. It gets worse. One out of four Americans aged 65 or older is socially isolated due to retirement, friends or family moving away, chronic health conditions, or hearing loss.
Loneliness and isolation are concerning at any age. If your mom and dad are lonely or isolated, it can impact their mental and physical health. Learn more about the risks of regular isolation and loneliness.
What the Studies Show
Several studies have linked social isolation and loneliness to a higher risk of chronic health conditions. One study found that people with limited social interactions had a 32 percent higher risk of stroke and 29 percent higher risk of heart disease. People with heart failure who were socially isolated had a higher risk of hospitalization or death.
Similar studies have shown that people who are lonely and isolated have a higher risk of developing dementia. That risk is almost 50 percent higher.
Tips for Engaging Socially
When you are lonely and isolated, it can be hard to find ways to become more social. After retirement, it’s easy to fall out of the habit of seeing friends. You don’t have to leave home. Plus, people move on to new states for better weather or a lower cost of living. Your parents have a smaller social circle for that reason.
You need them to become more engaged, but how do you make it happen? Start by getting them to find things that interest them. Your mom loves swimming. Look at local pools and see if any offer water aerobics classes. She would do something fun and meet others with similar interests at the same time.
Volunteering is another way for your parents to make new friends and become social. Your dad enjoys reading, so see how he feels about volunteering at his local library. Your mom enjoys flowers. She could volunteer to deliver flower arrangements to patient rooms at the hospital. A senior care provider can accompany your senior to volunteer assignments or simply offer transportation to and from them.
Maybe your parents would do well at the local community center. If they attend various social events, they’d be around others their age doing fun things like going to a local restaurant, taking a fitness class, or learning how to cook. Luncheons, dances, and movie nights are other popular activities at community centers.
Have Companions Come to Them
As soon as you suspect your parents feel lonely or isolated, it’s time to talk about senior care services. Caregivers can stop by to play games, socialize, or watch a movie with them. Arrange senior care as often as your parents would like to have someone visiting.