Long Beach-based Senior Care Action Network (SCAN) released results this week from an online survey it took of 1,000 U.S. adults age 65 and older on loneliness and how they can overcome those feelings.
According to an article by the New York Times, isolation is a growing trend among adults and it adversely affects emotional, physical and mental health. About a third of Americans over 65 live alone and half of those over 85 do. Research shows loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline and increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Among the seniors that took the survey, 82 percent said they knew someone that is lonely but 58 percent would be reluctant to admit if they were lonely. Furthermore, 57 percent wish they had more close friends and 24 percent said they no longer feel important to anyone.
“This is an issue that can have devastating effects on seniors’ lives, and also negatively impacts the healthcare system,” Romilla Batra, SCAN’s chief medical officer, said in a statement. “It needs to be addressed and this survey provides important insights from older adults that will help us as we continue to develop solutions.”
The release cited a study by Brigham Young University where researchers found feeling lonely increases the risk of mortality by 26 percent, as well as a report from AARP Public Policy Institute which found socially isolated seniors add roughly $130 more per month in Medicare spending.
“The good news is that seniors are seeking out ways to remain engaged with others, including participation in community events, volunteering and technology,” Batra said in a statement. “No one should be lonely later in life, and we are committed to providing resources for meaningful interactions as well as mental health care so older adults can continue to lead fulfilling lives with the people and activities they enjoy the most.”
Survey results found that 48 percent of seniors participate in community and volunteer activities to combat loneliness. Technology is a growing factor as well as 77 percent reported using email to stay connected with friends and family and 53 percent used social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram.
SCAN also offers programs and services to help combat senior isolation. It’s Member2Member program connects SCAN members, many of whom have clinical or educational backgrounds, to other members to discuss sensitive issues like depression. Volunteer Action for Aging, Friendly Support and Cyber Senior link volunteers with seniors to provide them with emotional and technical support.
You can learn more about SCAN via their website here.
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