JFS Perspectives

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Seniors Matter: Senior Social Isolation - The Growing Concern

Seniors Matter: Senior Social Isolation - The Growing Concern

Do you know of a socially isolated senior? JFS Senior Solutions wants you to strengthen our community by reaching out to seniors in need. Loneliness and social isolation hinder the lives of older adults in our community every day. Loneliness is a subjective feeling of being alone that we may feel from time to time. In contrast, social isolation is the objective lack or absence of social contact. Considering the U.S.’s older adult population will continue to expand until its estimated peak of 81.1 million older adults in 2036, senior social isolation (SSI) is a growing concern.

With current trends like a highly mobile society and fewer children per family, the issue of social isolation takes on new significance. Some of the factors that can increase an older adult’s chance of becoming socially isolated include:

  • Living alone
  • Being 80+ years of age
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Decreased functional ability
  • Incontinence, frailty, or fear of falling
  • Life transitions like retirement, death of important social supports, losing a driver’s license, or being required to move into senior housing
  • Having no children or those that live far away
  • Living with low income or in poverty
  • Transportation-related difficulties

Many consequences can also stem from SSI. Over the past decade, research has shown the negative ramifications of SSI are comparable to the damaging effects of smoking cigarettes and other major health risks! Other documented negative effects include:

  • Reduced social skills
  • Greater likelihood of morbidity, such as cardiovascular disease
  • Higher level of disability from comorbid, chronic diseases
  • Reduced sense of well-being and increased depression rates
  • Poor mental health status and reduced cognitive abilities
  • Increased rates of premature death, including suicide
  • Increased likelihood of falling victim to elder abuse

When we effectively include and involve older adults, there are many positive effects:

  • Reduced monthly living expenses by limiting the need for community resources and doctors’ visits
  • Reduced cardiovascular damage related to stress exposure
  • Improved immune and cognitive functioning and well-being
  • Improved sense of self-control, self-esteem, and self-efficacy
  • Enhanced supportive, caring relationships
  • Feeling valued and instilling a sense of purpose

Jewish Family Service’s Senior Solutions department is highly committed to reducing social isolation in the senior community and we hope you will join our efforts. Please call us at 303.597.5000 for more information.

By Ashley Taeckens
Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center Intern

Ashley Taeckens is a care manager intern with JFS Colorado Senior Connections–Wheat Ridge. As an undergrad, Ashley double majored in psychology and gerontology (2015) and today works as an activities assistant at an assisted living facility. Ashley is currently working towards a master’s degree in gerontological social work with a focus on senior policy and research at the University of Denver.


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