We all have a fundamental need for socialization and inclusion. Without it, people begin to suffer from higher levels of stress, depression and death. In fact, loneliness may be as significant a health factor as smoking. Additionally, while aging often presents obvious physical challenges, feelings of isolation can impact mental health and cognitive abilities, and depression later in life has been associated with cognitive impairment and dementia as well.
In order to better understand loneliness and social isolation among older adults, AARP commissioned a national survey to examine these issues. In addition to examining prevalence rates among older Americans, the study provides a descriptive profile of lonely older adults and examines the relationships between loneliness and health, health behaviors and involvement in a social network.
Key findings revealed by AARP survey:
- A little over one-third (35%) of the survey respondents were categorized as lonely.
- Lonely respondents were less likely to be involved in activities that build social networks, such as attending religious services, volunteering, participating in a community organization or spending time on a hobby.
- Almost half (45%) of those who had lived in their current residence for less than 1 year reported feeling lonely.
- Loneliness was a significant predictor of poor health. Those who rated their health as “excellent” were half as likely to be lonely than those who rated their health as “poor” (25% vs. 55%).
Ways The Legacy Senior Communities Combats Senior Loneliness
At The Legacy Senior Communities, which includes The Legacy Willow Bend in Plano (Plano’s only Life Care Retirement Community), The Legacy at Home (our home health care agency), and the upcoming The Legacy at Midtown Park (the only Jewish-sponsored rental retirement community in Dallas), our teams recognize the perils of social isolation and ensure that every single person in our care feels like they are a part of a greater community which cares for them.
Residents at The Legacy Willow Bend have the opportunity to participate in a variety of different social activities, many of which are also designed to engage them physically, mentally and spiritually. This includes regular social activities hosted by the community, including weekly happy hours and game times – we even have fascinating speakers and interesting outings several times per month.
In addition to the social activities here at The Legacy Willow Bend, there is plenty to see and do in the surrounding area. Plano has been rated the “Safest City in America” and the “Top Suburb to Live Well,” by Forbes magazine. With plenty of shopping and dining options, sporting events, outdoor activities and places of worship, residents of The Legacy Willow Bend have their pick of fun social activities in the area. Transportation to area attractions is provided by the community, allowing groups of residents to go do the things they want to do together.
Additionally, The Legacy Senior Communities also brings social interactions to seniors in our community through our home health care agency, The Legacy at Home. Bringing Medicare-certified home health care to residents in the Dallas area, our home health nurses, therapists, personal caregivers and home companions are trained to recognize signs of loneliness and depression and take steps to alleviate these issues.
If you or someone you know is currently caring for an older adult, here are five simple tips from the professionals on ways to help alleviate loneliness:
- Listen and observe: Encouraging a senior to express themselves can help you discover what interests and passions lay dormant, just waiting to be rekindled.
- Develop a strategy to defeat seclusion: Once you know what someone loves to do, you can use this information to create a personalized plan to help with loneliness. If the person loves to cook, you might help them perfect some recipes and invite some friends over for a dinner party.
- Let them teach you: Caregivers are encouraged to connect with those in their care by allowing them to pass a portion of their vast store of knowledge and wisdom on to you. The key is to let their passion guide the lesson plan.
- Bridge the generation gap: Caregivers can play a vital role in fostering relationships between a senior and any young relatives. Too often, children see their elders as boring, when they should be viewing them as sources of wisdom.
- It’s the thought that counts: Urge family members to reach out to their elderly loved ones. It doesn’t have to be a grand, time-consuming gesture. Something as simple as sending a card, dropping off a little gift, or calling for 30 minutes a couple of times a week can go a long way toward making a senior feel loved and connected to the rest of the family.
In addition to all that we do, The Legacy Willow Bend and The Legacy at Home always need volunteers to lend a helping hand and visit with residents. This is a great way to give back to the local Plano community and it means a great deal to those we serve.
For more information about ways you can combat senior loneliness, including volunteer opportunities with The Legacy Willow Bend or The Legacy at Home, visit our volunteer page or call (972) 468-6191 for more information.
Anderson, G. Oscar. Loneliness Among Older Adults: A National Survey of Adults 45+. Washington, DC: AARP Research, September 2010. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00064.001
Botek, A., C., C., & O. (2012, June 21). The Elder Loneliness Epidemic. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.agingcare.com/articles/loneliness-in-the-elderly-151549.htm