The Isolation and Loneliness Epidemic
One only has to look through history to recognize that accompanying any population explosion there have been a variety of social, or economic and/or physical and mental health consequences. The current rapid growth of the global ageing population is no exception to those historical realities. The belief that retirement is a time of luxury and relaxation is not the reality for many older Canadians. Not all seniors have access to affordable and safe housing. Nor do all seniors have access to affordable transportation services. Social and economic services gaps have resulted in seniors being isolated, sometimes living in difficult situations.
If you are over 80 years of age and do not drive, access to affordable transportation services can be challenging. Seniors who have a limited pension income cannot easily afford $20.00 or more to get a ride to the grocery store or medical appointment. If they live in a rural setting outside of town the cost of transportation rises dramatically. If seniors are not socially connected to ask for rides and for visits, one can imagine how easy it would be to become isolated and perhaps lead to feelings of loneliness. This is the current reality for too many seniors.
Research into the isolation and loneliness of older adults has become an urgent cause. Governments are realizing that the social and economic costs of seniors being isolated are high.
Christina Victor is a leading researcher in the field of loneliness in later life. She has found that loneliness and social isolation are closely related with negative mental and physical outcomes such as death, cognitive decline, depression, and high blood pressure. She and others assert that an isolated senior has a 50 percent increase in having one or more of the negative outcomes listed above.
A senior who lives with a chronic illness and cannot afford to live in adequate housing, or afford proper nutrition and/or regular transportation, will likely have poor social and physical outcomes. This is a more common scenario in Parry Sound than many realize.
Many isolated seniors do not want to burden others and will not easily reach out for a ride, or assistance. Many are ashamed of their feelings of loneliness and their circumstances. These common thoughts are one of many consequences of the global ‘isolation and loneliness’ epidemic.
For more articles on healthy living for seniors go to Community Support Services Newsletter.