Everyone feels alone sometimes, but life’s hurdles have a way of compounding with age. Changing family structures—such as divorce, widowing, or immediate family members living far away—can be particularly difficult. Impaired mobility, disabilities, and inadequate transportation can make it difficult to get out to see Senior’s Health and meet new people.
Matthew Bussard, a professional financial service broker, helps seniors navigate the Medicare system to protect their physical and mental health. In this article, Mr. Bussard aims to spread awareness about the health effects of social isolation, teach people how to recognize the warning signs when someone is in trouble, and how to seek help if you are suffering from social isolation.
You might expect that those suffering from social isolation might experience higher rates of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicide, but the physical health effects of social isolation might shock you. Social isolation is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 35% increased risk of stroke. Among heart failure patients, loneliness is associated with a 57% increased risk of emergency room visits, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and four times increased risk of death.
Another major problem is that if someone is socially isolated—particularly if they have physical or mental impairment—they may not report abuse. A report from the World Health Organization cites that one in six people over the age of 60 have experienced some form of abuse in community settings, with two in three staff members at long-term care facilities reporting that they have committed abuse. These numbers are likely much higher due to the inability of some seniors to report abuse.
Recognize the Signs
Social isolation is significantly more common than you might realize. It is critical to view social isolation as a community problem; someone’s life could depend on your ability to recognize when they need help.
Tell-tale signs of social isolation include any combination of loss of interest in hobbies and socializing, trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual, changes in weight or appetite, neglecting personal hygiene, or a decline in cognitive abilities. If you notice these signs in a friend, family member, or neighbor, reach out to them to see how you can help. Sometimes just offering to be there for a person and listen to them can make all the difference.
What to Do if You Are Suffering From Social Isolation
You’re not alone: approximately one-quarter of Americans living in community housing over the age of 65 feel socially isolated.
Adopt a pet or volunteer with an animal rescue or shelter. Sometimes helping someone else can be exactly what we need to help ourselves. When you provide an animal in need with affection (and treats!), you will experience their unconditional capacity for love and caring.
You may also want to join a hobby group or club. From book clubs to walking groups to golfing, there are other people looking for new friends in their age group to share their hobbies with. Meetup is a great resource for finding local groups near you who share your interests. There are a wealth of online senior communities available with chat rooms and video chat capabilities.
About Matthew Bussard
Matthew Bussard is a financial services broker offering support to Medicare users in Rhode Island. He is passionate about creating a difference in his clients’ lives by helping them enroll in Medicare with professionalism and care. Mr. Bussard volunteers with Medicare recipients at clinics, providing efficient, continual guidance to clients every step of the way.
Matthew also participates in various charitable activities, including The Hunger Project, the MDRT Foundation, local clean-ups, and little league coaching. He donates to local charities and makes a difference in his community in every way possible.