Saturday, April 29, 2017

Social Isolation of Seniors Part 1

Being socially active and connected is at the core of having a good retirement and ageing well. Being connected is an important social determinant of health and social connectedness is beneficial to your health. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to serious consequences for senior health. 

Understanding the causes and risk factors for senior isolation can help us prevent it. Nobody relishes the prospect of ageing without a spouse or family member at their side, without friends to help them laugh at the ridiculous parts and support them through the difficult times. Yet that is just what many North American seniors face. The quality and number of connections you have with others are important to your health. These connections include
         Also, known as social support, social capital, and social engagement

As the baby boomer generation crosses the over-65 threshold, it grows; but many of our ageing loved ones are still feeling alone in the crowd.

A key determinate of health and one that we can control the choices we make/ An example of this is where one lives. One’s neighbourhood may provide an opportunity for social interaction with others through the availability of organisations (e.g. community centres, clubs, etc.…) and community-based programs. Similarly, living in a neighbourhood where neighbours know each other builds a sense of trust and community: Having a high sense of community is associated with improved mental and immunological health

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 11 million, or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. As people get older, their likelihood of living alone only increases. Additionally, more and older adults do not have children, reports the AARP, and that means fewer family members to provide company and care as those adults become seniors

While living alone does not inevitably lead to social isolation, it is certainly a predisposing factor. Yet another important consideration is how often seniors engage in social activities.

Statistics Canada reports that 80% of Canadian seniors participate in one or more social activities on a frequent basis (at least monthly) – but that leaves fully one-fifth of seniors not participating in weekly or even monthly activities.
Social contacts tend to decrease as we age for a variety of reasons, including retirement, the death of friends and family, or lack of mobility. Regardless of the causes of senior isolation, the consequences can be alarming and even harmful. Even perceived social isolation – the feeling that you are lonely – is a struggle for many older people.

Fortunately, the past couple of decades has seen increasing research into the risks, causes, and prevention of loneliness in seniors.

Fact: Loneliness and social isolation impacts the health of seniors more than 6% of Canadians over the age of 65 reported not having any friends
It is in our best interest to combat these changes because social participation and social support are both strongly connected to good health and wellness over the life course. The interaction of poverty, a function of one’s income, with social participation displays conceptually how income may act as a social determinant of health. Although social connectedness plays a significant role in health, seniors are more likely than any other age group to feel lonely or isolated

For seniors, social exclusion is found in several forms:

  • Exclusion from society due to laws or societal discrimination (e.g. mandatory retirement)
  • Failure of society to provide for the needs of seniors
  • (e.g. affordable housing)
  • Denial of opportunities to contribute and participate actively in society (e.g. not being represented on a community planning committee)
  • Economic exclusion (e.g. unequal or lack of access to resources)

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