If you are familiar with the restaurant Elmer’s then there is a likely chance you’re familiar with the fact that a great majority of their customers are seniors. I have worked at Elmer’s for almost four years now, and that being said, I have my fair share of experiences with seniors from the community. While at Elmer’s I have noticed that at least half of the seniors that visit the restaurant are by themselves.
Some of these seniors are regulars too. That meaning that they come in every day or so, and every day that they come in they are often alone. This has always been something that has bothered me, but didn’t really hit hard until I started volunteering at a family owned adult care facility. When at Elmer’s I’m seeing these lonely seniors in a public setting and don’t think much about their home life. Volunteering in the facility has opened my eyes up to the fact that the loneliness is not just something that occurs in public, but more than often continues at home. As it was sad seeing, I began to think about the health implications potentially created by isolation and feeling alone at such an old age. At this point was when I began to question if feelings of social isolation and loneliness were dangerous for seniors to be feeling. After researching really what social isolation does to an elder, I realized how dangerous for them it really is, and how big of an issue our society has. I hope that my readers gain a new perspective and realization for what some of the seniors within our communities are going through after reading my post; not to mention, ways we can help to prevent these feelings and expand lives. As many are aware, aging is a relatively tough process for an immense amount of people. With aging often comes increased health risks, increased body pain, loss of some motor functions, and loss of friends, family, and often spouses. As many would assume, all of these things can take a great toll on the body whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. With all of the added stress from life changing events caused by aging it is likely that frustration or even a somewhat negative mindset may conclude; thus, making it easy for tragic events, such as someone close dying, to push one over the edge and into a state of depression. It is no secret that individuals’ social relationships are often consumed by people that are close to the individual’s age. That being said, one might argue that it is safe to make the assumption that seniors are more at risk for depression, mortality, and other health risks due to the feeling of social isolation and loneliness caused by the increased number of deaths of friends and family around them. Death isn’t the only cause for feelings of loneliness and isolation. As people age, they naturally grow apart from their friends and socialites as people begin to move, build their own lives, or just in general become busy with their own lives. Not to mention, often time mobility becomes an issue for those aging, making it even harder to come into contact with those they may be close to. Damaged physical health can also make it hard to keep in contact with those that are important as one’s body may begin to deteriorate and functions diminish. All of these are reasons for increased feelings of isolation and loneliness within the senior community, which often causes increased health risks and likelihood of depression. After testing 55 senior men and women using the UCLA Loneliness Scale and Beck Depression Inventory, it was found by Archana Singh and Nishi Misra, who are both psychological scientists, that physical health tends to be the number one cause for major depression within elders. Singh and Misra said in their article Loneliness, Depression, and Sociability in Old Age that based on their research, depression increases with age due to the amount of physical problems that often may begin to occur. It was also found that social restrictions tend to be the second leading cause as increased loss increases isolation. The study also showed a positive correlation between religious beliefs, social relationships, self-efficacy, and socioeconomic status with the ability to age successfully (2009). Ideally, those that have more connections built with society are more likely to succeed with aging because they are less likely to be plagued with severe feelings of isolation and loneliness. A study conducted by Andrew Steptoe, Aparna Shankar, Panayotes Demakakos, and Jane Wardle found that after studying 6,500 British men and women (aged 55+) for almost seven years that those who are most socially isolated have a mortality rate 26% higher than those who still live socially successful lives. Those that conducted the study noted in their article Social Isolation, Loneliness and All-Cause Mortality in Older Men and Women that aside from depression, social isolation also is to blame for the heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, infectious illnesses, cognitive deterioration, and mortality within the senior population. In their research they also found evidence to support the fact that social isolation and loneliness are indeed linked. Essentially, it is to be believed that social isolation that causes loneliness is more dangerous than loneliness in general. It was found that elders who were socially active but still felt feelings of loneliness were not at as high of a risk for depression; thus, weren’t linked to suicidal thoughts or other health risks associated with depression (2013). Just from what has been stated so far, you can see some of the dangerous effects of social isolation and loneliness that commonly occurs within the elder population. If we can come together and attempt to really make an effort to stay in contact with our elders, that’ll help to lower risk of depression or other health risks caused by social isolation to occur.
How to Get Involved There are many ways you as an individual can help lower social isolation within society and your community. Just by taking care of the seniors in your life will be a big enough step to make a difference. According to The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) in their article Preventing Loneliness and Social Isolation in Older People, feelings of social isolation and loneliness are solely preventative. They believe that community support is key. As long as seniors have the chance to interact with others their age, who are going through a lot of the same things, then it is likely that isolation will not occur. Yes, in old age people tend to lose a lot of their lifelong friends or spouses, but this is why community interaction is important. Community interaction allows for the chance to meet and socialize with new people in the same age range. IRISS also feels that group activities are a huge success for seniors, and getting them involved will keep interactions high and isolation low (2014). One way to help your elders live a socially healthy life is to help get them involved in activities such as a community center art class, an exercise class, or even a therapeutic writing class. These activities will be great for your grandparent or family friend because it will most likely create some sort of relief for them, not to mention the social interaction they will gain from others within the community. You don’t even have to partake in the activity if you don’t want; doing so much as driving an elder that can’t drive to a community event, activity, or social meet up would make enough of a change. The fact that the lives of the senior population is being shortened because too many seniors feel alone is ridiculous. Not ridiculous because they feel that way, but ridiculous that us as a society are letting it happen. It was recorded in Preventing Loneliness and Social Isolation in Older People that in 2010 in the United Kingdom 50% of residents aged over 75 feel a constant feeling of loneliness (IRISS, 2014). No, this statistic does not speak for the whole world or for America, but I think it still makes a valid point that this is a problem. What makes it even more ridiculous is it is a problem that could be fixed by little doing. Society needs to step up and do what they can for the seniors. Interacting with your elders and enabling their social life will not only reduce health risks caused by isolation but also give them pride in having purpose, which many seniors tend to lose sight of. I also think society tends to lose sight of how important social relationships really are. Social relationships are the key to living a healthy live and expanding the lives of the senior community.
Be Informed: The Research Collection
SOURCE 01 Singh, A., & Misra, N. (2009, January 1). Loneliness, Depression and Sociability in Old Age. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016701/ I wanted to use this source because I liked how it discussed the fact that seniors are already at a heightened risk for depression commonly due to health risks. Then it further went on to speak of how this heightened risk is what often allows such a severe depressive state to occur when feelings of isolation and loneliness take over. The article really focused on the fact that a lot of changes comes with aging, creating a lot of frustration, which allows for these depressive symptoms. This also was a good source because I found it to be highly creditable. The study provided in the article gave me hard facts and information to back up my question. Not to mention it was found on a medical journal website written by creditable psychologists.
SOURCE 02 Steptoe, A., Shankar, A., Demakakos, P., & Wardle, J. (2013, March 1). Social Isolation, Loneliness, and All-Cause Mortality in Older Men and Women. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3625264/ I really liked the source because of the extensiveness of the experiment. Not only did the study go on for almost a decade, but it also had 6,500 test subjects all of which varied in different ages (55+) and genders. I felt that the results from such a wide spread experiment were relatively solid. This article also did a good job of pointing out the fact that social isolation is not just the cause for depression among seniors, but also many other health risks. Overall, the article created a clear answer to my question as it discussed the strong correlation between social isolation and mortality. This was also another creditable source as it was found from the same medical journal as my previous source, and the authors all contained backgrounds and degrees pertaining to the topic at hand.
SOURCE 03 Preventing Loneliness and Social Isolation in Older People. (2014, March 1). Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.iriss.org.uk/sites/default/files/iriss-insights-25.pdf This article worked well for my piece because unlike my other sources it spoke of ways to prevent seniors from feeling alone or isolated. Realization of the current issue at hand is what I hope my audience gains from the piece, and know how to fix the problem is also very important.