When people are talking about the dangers that seniors face when living alone, they often focus on people neglecting to turn off the stove, or injuring themselves when they take a spill onto the floor. However, a new study finds that there is another danger that lurks for seniors living alone that most people do not take into consideration – loneliness.
According to a recent study from UCSF researchers, the unpleasant feeling of emptiness or desolation can be especially debilitating to older adults and might lead to serious problems. In fact, it can lead to serious health problems and may even prove to be fatal.
More about the study itself
The research team took information from a nationally representative study by the National Institute on Aging – the Health and Retirement Study. The data that was being analyzed was gathered between 2002 and 2008 and the researchers surveyed 1,604 older adults.
According to the study, there was a drastic decrease in the ability to perform daily activity such as walking, climbing stairs, and upper extremity tasks. Those who identified themselves as lonely had a 59 percent greater risk of decline, making it statistically significant. There was also a 45 percent greater risk of death in those people who identified themselves as lonely.
One of the main differences of the study, according to the assistant professor in the UCSF Division of Geriatrics, was the fact that subjective feelings are not often considered when talking about affecting our overall health. However, this study revealed that loneliness is independently associated with an increase in functional decline and an increased rate of death.
Feeling lonely does not mean being alone
One of the most surprising results in the study was the fact that there does not have to be any correlation between living alone and feeling lonely. According to the study, almost half of the surveyed older adults FELT alone, while less than 20 percent lived actually alone.
Getting social stimulation early
This information means that it is more important than ever to stimulate social interaction as people get older. This is why it may be beneficial for people to move to a senior community before it is ‘physically necessary’. This is not merely about physical discomfort or other physical issues, but especially important because it allows people to build up their social network again.
This is ultimately going to prevent those intense feelings of loneliness and may ward off the negative side effects attributed to feeling lonely. If you want to learn more about the different options, make sure to visit carltonseniorliving.com to see what might be available.