Research shows older Australians are more likely to experience social isolation and loneliness than any other demographic. Those over 75 experience loneliness more than any other age group.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians over 65 are increasingly likely to live alone, and living alone is one of the common causes of social isolation in seniors.
We explore some of the risk factors of social isolation in the elderly, the health effects of loneliness, and how to help your older loved ones stay connected.
Older adults have a higher risk of loneliness and social isolation due to several factors such as:
- Living alone
- Being divorced, separated, or widowed
- Chronic illness
- Mobility issues
- Loss of family or friends
- Not living near loved ones
- Transportation challenges.
These are just some of the possible causes of social isolation in the elderly. If someone you love is experiencing any of these, there’s a chance they could be experiencing loneliness too.
Learn the signs of loneliness in seniors in this blog post.
Health Effects of Social Isolation
All humans – whether extroverted or introverted – are inherently social beings who need human connection and a sense of belonging. When these needs aren’t met, our physical and mental health can suffer.
Research tells us loneliness is just as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It’s a major risk factor for physical and mental health conditions such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive decline
- Alzheimer's disease
- Heart disease
- Poor sleep quality
- Weakened immune system.
Studies even show that social isolation is a significant contributor to early death.
Helping our Seniors Stay Connected
Seniors may need some help from their support networks to stay socially active. Here are three ways you can support your older loved one to stay connected and avoid social isolation:
- Stay in regular contact – Make an effort to call and visit your older loved one regularly. You might even like to organise a roster with other family and friends to ensure someone is checking in each day. This can be particularly important if your older loved one has health issues.
- Get them out of the house – Getting out and about gives them the chance to engage with the locals in their neighbourhood. Maybe they’ll become a regular at their local café and feel special when the barista calls them by name.
- Encourage social hobbies – Group activities such as tennis, bingo, water aerobics, and walking groups are all great ways to meet new people who share the same interests. Being part of a group can bring a special sense of belonging.
Find more ways to help lonely seniors here.
If your older loved one needs someone to talk to, our counsellors are here to listen. You can learn more about our counselling services here or call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment.
For specialised senior relationship services, discover our Elder Abuse Prevention and Support Service, Senior Financial Protection Service, Elder Mediation Support Service, and Senior Social Connection Program.