Older adults account for an important and substantial proportion of our society, a number which is only continuing to grow. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian seniors made up approximately 15% of the total population in 2013. By 2036, this number is expected to increase to between 23 and 25%. When our seniors are socially isolated, we miss out on the wealth of experience they can contribute to our society and the impact and loss that is felt can be significant. While social isolation for seniors was already considered a problem prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has only gotten worse over the last few years as we, as a society, have had to keep our distance from others for our own safety.
The effects of loneliness on seniors
The older population are especially susceptible to loneliness and social isolation due to a number of factors including declines in mobility and health, loss of loved ones, and oftentimes geographical separation from their families. Isolation can be especially detrimental to their health as socially isolated seniors are shown to have a higher risk of negative health behaviours including drinking, smoking, poor eating habits, and a sedentary lifestyle. They can also have a higher risk of falls and a higher likelihood of being admitted to hospital.
The emotional effects of loneliness on seniors can go beyond just feeling sad. Isolated seniors have been shown to decline quicker mentally than their more social counterparts. Other negative mental health repercussions of loneliness can include cognitive decline and a higher risk of dementia, as well as feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
How can loneliness be overcome?
One obvious way to combat loneliness is to maintain interpersonal relationships and stay socially active within the community. For seniors who have mobility issues, however, this can be especially difficult. Social programs, such as those that involve volunteers visiting the homes of house-bound seniors, are especially important in giving them a friendly face to talk to.
At Carefor much of what we do is to help seniors reduce the isolation and loneliness that often comes with aging.
In Eastern Counties: Our five seniors support centres in Winchester, Lancaster, Alexandria, Finch and Ingleside offer numerous programs such as congregate dining to help seniors stay connected and share a meal together. Click here to learn more.
In Pembroke-Renfrew Country: Carefor offers numerous programs in the community including our Friendly Visiting and Frozen Meal Delivery to help isolated seniors know a friendly face is only a phone call away.
In Ottawa: Loneliness is a common product of living with dementia. Our day programs and Guest House offer people living with dementia the chance to get out of the house and connect with other people – to dance, bake and share a laugh. These respite programs are a great way to reduce loneliness.