Four Ways to Avoid Social Isolation
What Is Social Isolation?
Social isolation is defined as complete or near total lack of contact between an individual and others. When you are socially isolated, you do not have regular interactions with other people.
It can be the result of many things. Losing a partner and living in rural areas are two main culprits. Aging is another major contributor. In fact, 25% of those over 65 are socially isolated.
The Negative Effects of Social Isolation
Social isolation can adversely impact the physical and mental health of people of all ages. However, in elderly populations, the effects of isolation are even more significant.
Studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of dementia and the risk of death from heart disease. Some findings even suggest that social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking, obesity, or physical inactivity.
Solutions Exist for Older Adults
For many suffering from social isolation, particularly older populations in rural areas, they have few opportunities to interact with others. Covid-19 only exacerbated the problem. But just as there are many causes of social isolation, there are many ways to combat it. With that in mind, the following are four things you can do to avoid social isolation.
1. Get More Physical Activity
Increasing your physical activity does not mean you have to join a gym or start running every morning. Although, to be fair, joining a gym can foster connections with others in your community. Getting more physical activity can be as simple as walking in your neighborhood.
Not only is it a great way to begin ramping up your activity, but it has been shown to have incredible health benefits (even if you don't get the 10,000 steps many recommend). Not to mention, walking and other physical activities are typically done outside of the home, which can help you meet others.
2. Connect with People Online
The online world gets a lot of negative press these days, but it does have its benefits. Aside from the obvious, like shopping from home and instant information, it eliminates the distance between us. We can connect with old friends or family who may not live nearby. And we can make new friends, too.
For those not technologically inclined, there are free resources like Cyber Seniors that can help educate you on new devices and help with usage issues.
3. Adopt a Pet
While not a human—regardless of how you may dress your four-legged friend—pets can provide you with much-needed companionship. Plus, they encourage you to be more active, whether that means going on short walks or getting out to the pet store or dog park. Beyond the bond you make with your cat or dog, you will increase the opportunities for interactions with others, including vets, other pet owners and neighbors.
You can even adopt an older pet that will require little to no training and less energy to keep up with. Visit your local shelter or Humane Society to start the process.
4. Pick Up a Hobby
Starting a new hobby can help stimulate your brain and introduce you to new people. It also can lead to more physical activity simply by encouraging you to get out of your current routine. Plus, you will find there are groups dedicated to your new hobby online and, in some cases, at your local community center.
Needlepointing, birding, gardening and even learning an instrument are all popular hobbies for older adults that promote networking. Find one that interests you and get started today.
We’re Here to Help
Humans are social creatures by nature. We crave—and need—interaction with others. It’s a key component to living a long and healthy life. In addition to the above tips, the AARP has valuable information and other resources for seniors suffering from social isolation. And, as always, we are here for you, as well.
If you are socially isolated, please know that you don't have to be alone any longer. The professionals at Hawthorne are eager to help you make more connections in your community. Reach out and we can offer you some outlets and other solutions that can help you live a more connected life.