Johnathan Vespa from the United States Census Bureau reports that; “older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in United States history.” The article goes on to say the middle-aged out number children, but the country will reach a new milestone in 2035. People age 65 and over are expected to number 78.0 million, while children under age 18 will number 76.6 million.
With our aging population we are finding one of the biggest issues is that their social circles begin to shrink as the years go by. Friends often move or pass away. Other areas that affect their social circle is limited mobility, hearing and vision loss and other losses and struggles often related to aging.
According to an article titled ‘Aging Care; Combating the Epidemic of Loneliness in Seniors’, a University of California, San Francisco study found that participants 60 years old and older who reported feeling lonely saw a 45% increase in their risk of death. Loneliness has the potential to accelerate a senior’s need for assistance from a family caregiver or another source of long-term care. Loneliness is thought to act on the body in a way that is similar to chronic stress.
‘Aging Care’ also lists ways to alleviate loneliness in the elderly: 1. Listen and observe – The feeling of ‘being heard’ is such a gift which brings them joy. 2. Develop a strategy to defeat seclusion – Identify things they can still be active in that bring them joy. 3. Let them teach you – They are a wealth of information. Have them teach you, which will give them a feeling of purpose. 4. Bridge the generation gap – Bring the youth and elders together to learn from each other. 5. It’s the thought that counts – Staying connected can come in many forms: phone calls, writing a letter, bring a meal over to share with them. 6. Consider a Senior living facility – This may be what helps to fill the void of loneliness. Socialization, activities and events all provided under one roof.
Jamie Ducharme writes; “Loneliness and social isolation are a growing public health concern for people of all ages in the United States. The latest National Poll on Healthy Aging finds that a third of seniors are lonely.”
Women are more likely than men to report a lack of companionship while finding solutions for loneliness is highly personal, research suggests the best interventions are those that involve meaningful social contact, whether that it is volunteering, seeing an old friend, etc. Jamie says; “It’s really about the meaningfulness of the activity and if you’re forming relationships.”