Can Feeling Isolated and Alone Create Dangers for Seniors? (by Aryanna Abercrombie, 11936)

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIntroduction

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.

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4 comments

  1. Jennifer Douglas

    Aryanna, this was very well written. It took me on an emotional journey. I think it’s common to have a soft spot for senior citizens, but I had the most amazing great grandma on the planet and loved spending time with her. She had 10 grand children and 20 great grand children and honestly, we all thought we were her favorite 🙂 I am not sure how she was able to do that, but it was a talent.
    I enjoyed how you drew me in with comments of depression, loneliness and isolation. None of those are things I would want for any older person that I know. I like how you kept getting involved fairly simple for all of us to do. Take care of the people we already know. That isn’t expensive or difficult. I think you’re right, at some point, it seems that we forget about our elders and kind of let them just deal with the “cards they were dealt.”

  2. Feedback:

    Hi Aryanna! I was really excited to read yours because I know we are doing the same topic and it seems like we would agree on a lot of things! And boy was I right! This was really a great paper!

    So to start off, I would like to say that your paper was really great, but it would have been able to be a lot easier to read if it wasn’t this large mega paragraph and if it had a lot of smaller paragraphs to make it easier to read. You know, like bite size chunks. Also, another thing that made it a little harder to read was its repetitiveness. You kept using the words isolation and loneliness a lot, and I know that is what you are talking about but perhaps find another way to say it, so that way it seems like a more well rounded paper that is original in every sentence! I think you did an amazing job with your sources and they worked very well for backing your claim up! You also positioned them quite nicely in strategic areas around the paragraph in order to entice the reader further with more information. I think a few things you could do to make that aspect stronger is integrate the sources into your writing a little better and do proper sourcing. I don’t believe that your sources are in MLA format and you just kind of state the, which is the problem with the integration part. If you made it so you smoothly added it in instead of saying “this source was about such and such” then it would definitely make a really strong paper!

    One thing I really liked about this paper was that you made some words in bold so that it would catch the reader’s attention and direct their gaze and focus to this specific part of the paragraph. I think you did a really nice job at explaining things and then explaining your reasoning for such things, as well as providing ample support for those claims. I also enjoyed the amount of personal experiences you put into which made it seem more real and more of a pressing concern because it is something that is both noticed easily by us common folk and can easily be solved by our own resolve! It certainly gives hope to people by making it seem like they can really make a difference. Your personal introduction in the beginning, explaining that you worked at Elmer’s and volunteered at an adult care facility, also fed into that quite nicely, which I think is really important. An additional benefit of doing that is that it catches the readers attention and gets them interested in the subject. Your introduction also increases your credibility because it shows that you have experience with elders and that you genuinely care for them, making your knowledge on the matter, that much more trust worthy. Overall, really great paper! Keep up the good work!

  3. Aryanna Abercrombie

    Thanks Edward! I definitely can see what you mean with the repetitiveness. Sometimes it just gets so hard to find different words when their are little other words to describe that main word, ya know? Overall, vocabulary and word choice is something I want to continue to work on though! As for the sources, I actually wrote my paper in APA form. I know regularly we write MLA, but it being a research project I felt APA worked a little better; so Zapoura said that it was okay and left the choice up to me! As for the chuckyness of the project, I don’t know what happened.I had everything separated out into different paragraphs and when it posted it ended up in one big chunk. 😦

    Anyways, thanks for the feed back & good luck with finals!!

  4. Susie

    Hi Aryanna,
    I like the topic that you picked. I have and 85 years old grandfather in declining health that live by himself, and he has for over 30 years. From my recollection he has never really been involved in the community,or had and activities that he attends on a regular basis. He keeps to himself a lot, and when I call to talk to him he is very depressed. He complains about his aches and pains and how old he is. My family has tried to get him to take walks, or participate in some yoga to help with the aches and pains, he refuses. My aunts go over to check in on him throughout the week and take him to appointments. They have even offered to have him spend the night at their houses but he has refused. He is a very isolated man, and at this point refuses to venture out and try to build relationships beyond the ones he has with family. It is very hard talking to him because you can hear how unhappy he is.
    On the other hand, my other grandparents were very active before they passed away. Family was always stopping by to visit them, they walked daily, and had friends that they did things with. They were both happy and vivacious and kept busy everyday, they had a weekly schedule that they followed to complete their errands. They hardly complained about physical ailments that they were suffering from. Even when my papa was bedridden due to his cancer he was cracking jokes and making others laugh. A lot has to be said about how attitude really does influence outcomes. The elderly population is a whole demographic of people that are not really acknowledged and respected the way that they should. Thank you for sharon your research and thoughts. It was a great read.

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