Social Isolation: The Health Impact is Real and Preventable
How living in a retirement community can ward off loneliness for older adults
For many older adults, the long, cold months of winter can feel very isolating. Getting out and about is an added challenge. Weather conditions can prevent family and friends from visiting causing the social networks of older adults to become more dispersed.
Social isolation, especially during the holiday season, can worsen feelings of loneliness. New research shows that social isolation has a very real and significant impact on the health of older adults. In essence, being part of a thriving community is not just something nice to have—it’s a critical part of their health and well-being.
How Social Isolation Affects the Health of Older Adults
Social isolation affects physical health in many ways. It produces stress hormones that can lead to inflammation and other health problems. According to the AARP, social isolation has been linked to higher blood pressure, susceptibility to the flu and other infectious diseases, and early onset of dementia. Another study found social isolation increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Older adults who are isolated are less likely to see their physician, be compliant with medication, exercise, or eat a well-balanced diet. Recent studies indicate social isolation has similar negative effects on the body to health risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking.
Social isolation is as harmful to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
What Causes Social Isolation?
As your loved one gets older, the communities they once relied upon diminish. It often begins with a loss—be it a spouse, close confidant, or friend. Another common trigger is an incident, such as a fall, that leaves a loved one homebound and cut off from their usual social networks. Life changes, like retirement, family moving away, or losing the ability to drive contribute to loneliness. It’s also common for people experiencing hearing and vision loss to feel isolated.
Community: The Cure to Social Isolation
Fortunately, there is an antidote to social isolation and loneliness: building social connections. Belonging to a community is vital to health throughout our lifespan and the impact is measurable. People with meaningful social connections live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Clark: A Community That Feels Like Family
With over 100 years of experience serving older adults, we certainly understand the effects of social isolation. That’s why community and life enrichment is at the center of all that we do. Living at Clark offers a built-in social network and community that feels like family. Our residents have daily opportunities for social engagement and develop deep connections with each other.
“We say this is a place where people make their next best friend,”
-Lisa Spangler, Director of Resident Living Services.
Our life enrichment team taps into the interests of our residents and offers a wide-range of new and interesting activities and experiences. Clark residents have access to:
- Group fitness classes
- Special interest groups, like a walking club and a creative writing circle
- Weekly movie nights
- Spiritual care
- Games including Euchre, billiards, trivia, and more
- Choir and musical groups
- Cultural experiences
“People gain a new sense of purpose here—neighbors are looking after one another, people share meals together, and there’s always someone available and willing to try an activity or go on an adventure,” added Spangler.
Do you have a family member who you worry is experiencing social isolation and loneliness? Visit our thriving Clark community and see if it is right for your loved one. Please contact us to learn more at (616) 278-6520.