The Dangers of Loneliness
In September of last year, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) released a report on adult loneliness. Using a loneliness scale developed at the University of California Los Angeles, they found that over a third of adults over the age of 45 experience significant loneliness. While the numbers for those in middle age were higher than older adults, about 30% of individuals over the age of 60 were reported as being lonely. In a world that we sometimes like to think of as more connected than ever, that number is incredibly concerning.
These numbers take on new meaning when we consider the health risks associated with loneliness. In the past few years, there has been a lot of research about the relationship between loneliness and health outcomes for older adults, and things aren’t looking good. Loneliness in older adults has been linked to health problems, worsening cognition, and general functional decline. When you put that research next to our growing aging population and the prevalence of loneliness among people over 60, the problem starts to feel a bit more like a crisis.
It’s important to note that many researchers have differentiated between loneliness and isolation. Whereas isolation is measured by the number of person-to-person interactions someone has, loneliness is measured by how a person feels. It is the perceived disparity between the quality of the relationships or interactions a person has and the depth or quality that they desire. That makes it a lot stickier to deal with. We can’t heal loneliness by simply putting someone in a room full of people or signing them up for a class. Loneliness is about relationships.
There’s no easy answer as to how to help a senior who is experiencing loneliness. There are a wealth of articles out there that propose helping someone volunteer, stay physically active, or simply making sure that you show them affection. Talking with someone or encouraging them to reach out to a professional counselor may be a start. Some people even suggest that in-home care, a person who consistently stops by and builds a relationship with their client, might help. We hope it does, and you can bet that Apelah always has caring relationships in mind.