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Loneliness in Seniors – Causes and Signs
July 22, 2023

Loneliness Awareness Week 2023, running from June 12 to 18, shines a light on an important issue affecting seniors worldwide.

Loneliness, particularly among older adults, has become a growing concern in recent years. It is essential to understand the causes and signs of loneliness in seniors to address this issue effectively and provide the necessary support. Let’s delve deeper into this topic and explore ways to combat loneliness among our elderly population.

About loneliness

Loneliness is a common experience that can affect people of all ages, including seniors. According to Age UK, almost 4.5 million older people claim to have felt lonely in later life. Other key stats from Age UK include:

  • 225,000 older people often go for a week without speaking to anyone.
  • Over 6 million older people say just a few minutes of conversation makes a difference to their week.
  • Over half a million of those who have been lonely claim it stops them from going out and about in everyday life.

It is crucial to recognise that loneliness is not a personal flaw or weakness. It is a natural human emotion and a signal that our social needs are not being met. Just as hunger is our body’s way of letting us know we need to eat, loneliness is a warning sign that we need to address our social needs.

Loneliness doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It’s a societal issue that can impact anyone, regardless of their personal attributes or circumstances. It is important to approach loneliness with empathy and understanding, acknowledging that it is a valid and widespread experience that deserves attention and support.

What causes loneliness in seniors?

Several factors can contribute to loneliness in seniors. The loss of loved ones, such as spouses, friends, or family members, can leave older adults feeling isolated and alone. Retirement or a decrease in social interactions due to physical limitations can also lead to a reduced social circle and increased feelings of loneliness.

Other factors that may contribute to loneliness include geographical distance from loved ones, lack of transportation options, financial constraints limiting social activities, and limited access to community resources.

Additionally, ageism and societal attitudes towards ageing can further exacerbate feelings of isolation and disconnection.

Recognising the signs of loneliness

Identifying the signs of loneliness in seniors is important for early intervention and support. While each individual may experience loneliness differently, there are common indicators to be aware of:

  • Social withdrawal: seniors who feel lonely often withdraw from social activities and interactions. They may decline invitations, avoid social gatherings, or isolate themselves at home.
  • Changes in mood: persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, or a general sense of unhappiness may indicate underlying loneliness. A noticeable shift in mood without an apparent cause should not be ignored.
  • Physical symptoms: loneliness can manifest in physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, or a weakened immune system. These symptoms can further impact overall well-being.
  • Decreased self-esteem: seniors experiencing loneliness may develop a negative self-perception, doubting their worthiness of social connections or feeling like a burden to others.
  • Lack of interest: a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies can be a sign of loneliness. Seniors may become disengaged and show little enthusiasm for activities they once found fulfilling.

Health risks of loneliness

The impact of loneliness on seniors’ health should not be underestimated. Research has linked loneliness to various health risks, both physical and mental. Prolonged loneliness can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, weakened immune function, and cognitive decline. It can also contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

Alongside that, recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterised by social isolation or loneliness) were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalisation, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

Loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher rates of mortality among seniors. The negative effects of loneliness on overall well-being highlight the urgency of addressing this issue and providing appropriate support and companionship to older adults.

Mumby’s Companionship Care

Mumby’s understands the importance of addressing loneliness in seniors and provides a solution to combat this issue. With our specialised Companionship Care service, we aim to create meaningful social connections and improve the overall well-being of older adults.

Mumby’s Companionship Care offers trained and compassionate caregivers who provide companionship, emotional support, and assistance with daily activities. These caregivers engage in conversations and activities with seniors. They also act as trusted companions, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing feelings of isolation.

Our services are tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of each person. Whether it’s engaging in hobbies, going for walks, participating in social events, or simply having someone to share stories and memories with.

By providing regular social interaction and support, Mumby’s helps seniors build new relationships and maintain existing ones. Our caregivers can accompany seniors to social gatherings and community events, and even facilitate virtual connections through technology, bridging the gap between geographical distances and enabling seniors to stay connected with loved ones.

Loneliness Awareness Week 2023 serves as a reminder to society about the significance of addressing loneliness in seniors. It is an opportunity for individuals, communities, and organisations to come together and raise awareness about this issue. By supporting initiatives like Loneliness Awareness Week, we can encourage dialogue, promote understanding, and work towards creating a more inclusive and connected society for older adults.

Useful Links

Preventing loneliness in the elderly

Loneliness and care homes