A staggering 43 percent of seniors have reported feeling lonely on a frequent basis. Surprisingly, loneliness is not only a condition that is felt mentally, it can also affect the physical health of an individual.
Having feelings of loneliness does not necessarily mean that one is alone. In fact, of the 43 percent of seniors that felt lonely on a regular basis, only 18 percent live alone. This means that it’s not only being alone that can be detrimental to mental and physical health, but also the quality of the relationships that one has.
Physical and Emotion Implications of Loneliness
Being lonely can have a profound impact on the emotional and physical well-being of a person. In a study conducted by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), they concluded that those who live alone, or feel alone, have a greater chance of developing acute symptoms, possibly even leading to death. The study surmised that this could be as simple as not having a good network of people to encourage one to get to a doctor, thus ushering in more health problems.
The study also concluded that loneliness is linked to long-term illnesses. Those that felt lonely were more apt to have long-term illnesses, like arthritis, impaired mobility, etc. Loneliness has also been shown to cause high-blood pressure and increases the risk of developing dementia. Feeling lonely can also lead to the more serious problem of depression. The effects of loneliness are quite prominent.
It has also been shown that seniors that feel lonely are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior, such as smoking, poor diet choices, and lack of physical activity. A surprising alternative to these unhealthy behaviors is that it has been shown that community-based fitness programs, much like those that happen daily at Bonaventure Senior Living communities, have been shown to decrease feelings of loneliness among seniors. This is a two-fold solution: exercising is good for physical health and the social interaction is good for mental health.
What Can Be Done?
Those that are feeling loneliness should try to establish more connections, particularly deeper and more meaningful connections. Quality always supersedes quantity. This can be done in a few different ways. One of the best ways is to be a part of a community. Whether this means moving in to a senior living community, like Bonaventure Senior Living, joining a senior center for more interactions, or even having family visit more (in person or via video conference). Any of these ways, and more, can help stave off loneliness and its negative effects.
If you or your loved one is having feelings of loneliness, please reach out for help. Contacting family members to do something about it is crucial. You can also contact your local senior center for support. They will be able to get you or your loved one into various programs that can help give the deep and engaging social interactions that are necessary for a healthy mental, and thus physical, lifestyle.
It’s also encouraged to reach out to any employee at a Bonaventure Senior Living community. They can not only offer a kind ear, but they can also suggest some activities that can increase your social interactions. These activities will not only be fun and engaging, but may also lead to friendships that can provide a meaningful everyday relationship in you or your loved one’s life. You can take a look at our Facebook or Twitter and see all the ways we have Retirement Perfected and Living Perfected.