Of all the health risks seniors face during the COVID-19 pandemic, worries over social isolation are likely low on the list. But it’s actually more dangerous than you may think. Multiple research studies have found social isolation puts seniors at higher risk for everything from heart disease to depression to cognitive decline and even death. As the pandemic wears on with no end in sight and seniors continue to be advised to stay home and apart from loved ones, you may wonder if social isolation is inevitable. Not at all! Here’s why.
Loneliness Versus Social Isolation
Before we can help you avoid social isolation it’s important to understand exactly what it is. Social isolation isn’t just another name for loneliness. It’s actually very different. The AARP Foundation describes loneliness as the feeling or perception of being alone, while social isolation can be quantified by the size of your social network and/or ability to access it. Therefore, social isolation is being psychologically or physically detached from support groups of family, friends and community.
The Effects of Social Isolation
Social isolation effects nearly 1 in 5 seniors according to AARP. And that was before COVID-19! Now even more seniors are being impacted. Numerous studies, including research reported from the National Institute on Aging as well as a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have found that social isolation puts seniors at higher risk for a range of conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and even early death.
The AARP Foundation equates the health risks of prolonged social isolation to the dangers of smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
Avoiding Social Isolation in Independent Living
The key to preventing social isolation is to keep connected not only to people but to the things you enjoy doing as well. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. At home, you can certainly make a point to video chat with friends and family, but many seniors still live alone. And while you can certainly look at online options to pursue hobbies or keep busy, it’s just not quite the same.
On the other hand, in an independent living community, you’ll never be alone! Caring staff, neighbors and friends are always near. For example, we’re offering multiple ways to keep residents connected through technology such as GoToMeeting, as well as small group engagement opportunities. Plus, you’ll enjoy access to our onsite restaurant and bar as well as our pool, gym and salon. These are all located separate from resident living areas and allow us to maintain appropriate social distance.
What’s more, we host a variety of events such as our recent Outpace COVID-19 virtual fitness race that celebrated National Senior Health & Fitness Day, as well several “drive-by” events including our recent Father’s Day Family Car & Hot Rod Parade.
Safety in Independent Living
Not only are we committed to helping our residents avoid social isolation by making sure they live their best lives in spite of COVID-19, but we’re also committed to protecting them from it. In independent living, we have a number of ways to limit your exposure, perhaps even more so that at home:
For more information on independent living on our campus, contact Friendship today to schedule a virtual tour by calling 540.385.8720.
Want additional "boredom busters" and tips as we navigate through this pandemic? Click here to access our free COVID-19 Guide!