Before COVID, my mother had many friends, sang in the choir and volunteered at the local school. Now she mainly is at home, the school no longer welcomes volunteers, and the choir is not meeting in person. Should I be worried?
Older adults are at higher risk for social isolation and loneliness due to a number of factors, including physical and cognitive declines, loss of loved ones, and changes in social roles and support systems, more noticeable since March 2020.
Research has shown that social isolation and loneliness can lead to a range of negative health outcomes in older adults, including:
- Higher rates of mortality and morbidity
- Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension
- Decreased immune function
- Increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety
- Increased risk of falls and accidents
Someone can be socially isolated without feeling lonely, and vice versa. For example, an older adult who lives alone but has a rich inner life and strong connections with friends and family may not feel lonely, even though they are technically socially isolated. On the other hand, an older adult who lives with others but lacks meaningful social connections and support may feel lonely, even though they are not socially isolated.
It is important for older adults to have social connections and a sense of community in order to maintain good health. There are many ways that older adults can stay connected and engaged.
It is also important for friends and family to check in on older adults who may be at risk of social isolation and loneliness and to offer support and assistance as needed. Be curious! You can call your mom and ask her how she feels about these changes in her social life. Encourage her to find other volunteer activities that are open like JFS virtual visitors or patient navigator.
If you need help caring for an aging loved one, contact us today to learn how JFS Allies in Aging can help your loved one live better, longer.