As we age, many seniors fear being alone but social isolation isn’t just loneliness, it is a major factor in both mental and physical health. Social contact can diminish as we age; we stop working, our children move on with their own lives, spouses and friends die. Add to that reduced mobility due to health changes and you may have a recipe for depression stemming from social isolation.
According to Statistics Canada, 80 per cent of seniors participate in one or more social activities on a monthly basis. The remaining fifth of seniors are not socially active even once a month and reported in a 2009 survey that they felt left out, isolated from others or that they lacked companionship.
Social isolation can lead to depression and an increased vulnerability to elder abuse in addition to poorer overall health and quality of life. Research has found that isolated seniors use fewer health and social services and as a result have higher rates of premature death, more depression and more disability from chronic diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Isolation is also linked to a greater risk for dementia and cognitive decline.
Volunteering is a rewarding activity which ensures seniors have regular social interaction. Seniors may enjoy taking a class and whether it’s computer training or exercise, continued learning has many benefits including meeting others in the community. Pets are also a wonderful excuse to get outdoors and talk with others. Many communities also offer Friendly Visiting Services to isolated seniors.
For more information about services for seniors and caregivers, visit www.seniors.gc.ca .