By Ruth Woosley
When we are healthy and active we do not realize that many of our neighbors face social isolation when health issues or ability to drive keep them more sedentary at home. This isolation leads to more health issues which are a result of loneliness.
Social isolation occurs when a person does not have enough people with which to interact, and loneliness is distress over the perceived limited contact with individuals. They are very similar and often have the same result.
Health consequences of both social isolation and loneliness, especially in those who are aging, have been studied over the past few years and much has been learned.
- Isolation and loneliness has become a national epidemic.
- Both social isolation and loneliness increases the risk of mortality, can negatively effect both physical and mental health, and is linked to long-term illnesses (high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, arthritis, impaired mobility, and need for long term care).
- Feelings of loneliness contribute to cognitive decline and risk of dementia.
- Social isolation makes individuals more vulnerable to elder abuse. This month is Elder Abuse Month. Please report any suspected elder abuse to your local police department for a wellness check, or to the Department of Social Services’ Adult Protective Division – your identity will be kept anonymous.
- Loneliness is a major risk factor for depression.
- Loss of spouse, family members, and close friends are all major risk factors.
- Transportation challenges are also key to feeling isolated.
- Some tend to further isolate people who are lonely because the person who feels isolated brings a negativity and alienates others.
- The primary caregivers may feel unable to attend to their own social relationships. This can trigger loneliness and isolation for the healthier caregiver.
In Kernersville The Shepherd’s Center offers helpful solutions in managing the issues related to the health and mental consequences of isolation and loneliness. Research shows that social interaction, such as attending social programs, even via telephone, may help reduce feelings of loneliness. A Shepherd’s Center participant recently shared, “Hearing from the world outside makes you feel great!” This person is isolated due to her health issues and receives daily phone calls to check on her well-being and have a short social visit with a volunteer. She also receives a volunteer visit from someone whom she has connected with once a week, and she receives transportation to her medical appointments through The Shepherd’s Center. She is so happy that despite her medical condition, she is no longer lonely.
Recent research recommends that individuals consider taking a class, become more physically active, learn technology to connect with family or friends who live away, or volunteer. The Shepherd’s Center’s Senior Enrichment Program offers many classes which might interest someone who feels isolated. They also offer many forms of exercise from chair exercise, tai chi, and dance. The Senior Enrichment Center will soon be hosting classes via telephone. This series of phone classes is named “Senior Center on Call.”
The Bill Radisch Computer Center of Seniors offers technology assistance, including how to use your smart phones or other technologies to stay connected. If you are unable to utilize Skype or FaceTime to interact visually with your family and friends, volunteers can assist you to learn these apps with ease.
The Shepherd’s Center offers chances to volunteer and become more involved with others. As volunteers work with other adults who are aging or with disabilities they realize their own situation is not as dire as they had thought. Reaching out to others brings joy and feelings of connectivity. There are many ways to volunteer at The Shepherd’s Center of Kernersville.
Share this information with someone who is lonely or feels isolated or if you see patterns in your own life, take control of your needs by becoming more involved. If these suggestions are not touching the depth of the individual’s social isolation, The Shepherd’s Center does offer one-hour counseling sessions to help individuals who need a little more assistance with their isolation.
As the baby boomer generation turns 65, the numbers of the aging population continue to grow; however, many still feel alone in the crowd. YOU are not alone! Call The Shepherd’s Center of Kernersville today to learn about the many ways you can connect in this community.
For more information about The Shepherd’s Center of Kernersville, contact Ruth Woosley, Executive Director, at 336.996.6696 or Lisa Miller, Senior Center Director, at 336.992.0591.