How To Avoid Isolation In Seniors

Posted on July 31st, 2016 by John OKeeffe

Isolation is one of the most common problems experienced by senior citizens. As they age, kids grow up and move away, taking grandchildren with them. These families may move their seniors to assisted living facilities or retirement homes, limiting their exposure to social interaction. This isolation leads to a number of potentially serious problems and is easily remedied. Here are a few of the reasons you should ensure that your aging loved ones stay social and active:

Isolation Leads to Depression

Humans are social beings. We require interaction with others in order to remain healthy and happy. When seniors become withdrawn, they limit their social interaction which negatively impacts their mental health. This isolation and inactivity leads to worsening depression. Imagine spending all day, every day silently sitting in your home with no one to talk to and no reason to go out. You would likely start feeling the effects as well.
When seniors retire, they severely crop their opportunities to interact with others and leave the home. It is important that retirees cultivate hobbies and activities to occupy their time, get them out of the home, and talking to other people.

Suicide Rates Among Seniors are Alarmingly High

Roughly 15% of seniors will successfully take their own lives as a result of depression. The national average for all ages is 12.4%, leaving seniors with a significantly higher average. Of course, this number utilizes only the official reports of suicide, meaning the actual number is likely much higher. Due to the cultural taboo of suicide, many suicides are likely documented as an alternative form of death. Suicide is the extreme result of severe depression. In seniors, depression typically stems from isolation, illness, or loss of independence. Of course, the latter two can contribute to the issue of isolation. Resolving any issue that may be limiting your loved ones ability to remain active and social is critical in preventing suicide in seniors.

Self-Medication Can Lead to Addiction

Many people of all ages who suffer from depression will begin to self-medicate in order to feel better. Alcohol is the most common form of self-medication, easily leading to dependency. Alcohol abuse can have a number of detrimental effects on the elderly, including increased risk of cancer, worsened depression, increased risk of suicide, worsened memory, and other internal damage. When self-medication leads to addiction, it is critical that you seek help for your loved one. Rehabilitation from alcoholism may include group therapy, resolving some issues of isolation, talk therapy, and medication. You may also want to help your loved one healthy coping mechanisms. For example, exercise is an ideal method of prevention for depression, suicide, and isolation. Group exercises such as tai chi classes or swim aerobics are best.

Making sure you aging loved one lives their golden years to the fullest is a matter of keeping them social and active. Find social hobbies to coax them out of the home and to prevent isolation. Physical activity also plays a crucial role in mental health. Do your best to help your loved one stay fit. The best way to kill two birds with one stone? Senior exercise groups. Check out your local senior center and help your loved one find friends, stay active, and keep them from home isolation.