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I frequently hear people say they’ll do everything they can to stay in their home, but they are often times lonely and struggling to keep up with day-to-day tasks.


Older Americans are living isolated lives more than ever before. Statistics show as high as 43 percent of older adults are socially isolated. This is especially true in our rural area because older people often live in the country or on family farms, making it harder for some seniors to get into town to socialize. It is also more common for children to move away, making it more difficult for them to see their parents more regularly.  


Social isolation is much more than a person being lonely. Isolation increases the risk in adults for disability, dementia, hospitalizations, falls, poorer health practices, psychological distress, neglect or exploitation, and even common illnesses. The most at risk are homebound seniors who live alone and are 80 years old or older, according to Lenard Kaye at The University of Maine. This is extremely concerning to think how many fit this criteria, just in our communities alone.    


One might wonder how social isolation would increase risk for these other health conditions, but it is very important for people to have family, friends, neighbors, and professional caregivers to provide the social support they need. These relationships help them reduce stress, gain access to necessary resources, and stimulate their immune system.  


There are many ways to reduce isolation that are not expensive or invasive. For example, delivered meals are a way for someone to have daily contact with another person as well as something for people to look forward to in their day. Mail carriers can also be a source of personal contact and in some communities, they are training postal carriers to provide well-being checks on their scheduled routes. Adult day programs offer an affordable way to have a day out and some programs even provide transportation. Senior companion programs are available in some parts of the country and schools are piloting programs for students to visit homebound seniors.

Privately paying for caregivers who provide day to day assistance and companionship is also an affordable option to avoid isolation. Even if it is just a few hours per week, it gives the older person something to look forward to. In addition, seniors can get help with certain tasks they may be struggling with, and they can even have transportation available to help get them out of the home for brief periods of time.


Western Illinois Home Health Care offers caregivers and companionship services. If you or someone you know is isolated and in need of a visitor or any other assistance in their home, please call us at 1-800-228-5993.


Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care


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May 2017

by Amanda Powell

Social Isolation Increases Health Risks in Older Adults