Preventing Elderly Social Isolation And Staying Socially Connected
A study which ran for a year up until March 2012 has found that social isolation is not good for us. We could probably have told the researchers that without the study. Social isolation isn’t the same as loneliness. After all you can feel lonely even when surrounded by people, but social isolation relates to how often you see other people.
The study, which followed a group of 6,500 people over the age of 52, took three points into consideration to assess whether their subjects suffered from social isolation. These were:
· Those that were unmarried/not cohabiting
· Pensioners who had less than monthly contact with family and friends
· Those who didn’t participate in ‘civic organisations’ (such as social clubs or religious groups)
One of the study’s conclusions was that those who do have social interaction live longer. This isn’t just to do with the boost of meeting up with people regularly, but could also be to do with someone else noticing deterioration.
Whilst those of retirement age are mobile and well, getting about, joining clubs and mixing with others keeps you lively, alert and connected. Illness and lack of mobility or decreasing mobility can make this more difficult. If you are living alone without regular contact with others this could have knock on effects. This is particularly true for those who can’t get out and about. It is a must that you don’t retreat into smaller sections of the home because going upstairs is too difficult. A stairlift can help there. By the same token those that still challenge themselves to go out and about will hopefully maintain more of their ability as they age, and so are able to use their whole house.
A recent report about care in the community raised the problem that carers often only have a 15 minute slot with those they are caring for. And that the elderly person being cared for doesn’t see the same person regularly. This means there’s no opportunity to build a relationship and can lead to a feeling of constant vulnerability. No wonder they feel socially isolated.
It was also recognised that some conditions, especially dementia, are often not likely to be self-diagnosed. So without interaction the person will lack the concern that could get the proper diagnosis and care required.
Scarily 1 in 3 pensioners (i.e. those over 65) will suffer some form of dementia with the chances growing the older we get. Carers are very important both pre and post diagnosis, the Guardian report comments. There are more than 10 million people in the UK who have reached retirement age and 3 million who are 80+. The latter figure is estimated to double by 2030.
Other ways to stay socially connected
We have touched on it before, but you can also avoid social isolation via the internet. Older people who have learned to use the computer can connect with family and friends this way. For starters there is Skype, a free video calling device that allows you to speak to loved ones as well as see them. And they can see you, so make sure you have your best bib and tucker on!
You can use the Internet to find out things, to watch missed TV programmes and a host of other things, which will all help to reduce being disconnected with the world.
Even if you’ve turned into a ‘Grumpy Old Man or Woman’ remember we need other people, so stay in touch!