Social isolation is an objective state of being disconnected that can have serious health ramifications. Research has found the health effects of isolation are on par with widely known health hazards like heavy smoking and alcohol abuse. Seniors are especially at risk of being socially isolated due to the life transitions and experiences of loss they are going through.
The signs of social isolation are not always easy to spot because no two stories of isolation are the same and isolation can have many different causes. For example, a senior suffering from a health problem might disengage from the community because their health makes participation impossible. A senior on a low income might not be able to afford the cost of events and activities available in the community. A senior who does not have access to reliable transportation might not be able to leave home at all.
People can become isolated for all sorts of reasons, but a common theme is loss. Seniors particularly are at a point in life associated with many complicated types of loss, including loss of a reliable income, loss of a spouse or partner, loss of a driver’s license, and the list goes on. Without a strong, reliable network of support, many of these losses and transitions can set the stage for isolation.
Our “Connecting the Dots” tool offers a high-level overview about why a senior might become isolated along with a list of risk factors. Knowing how to recognize when someone might need support is the first step in making a difference. The tool also provides recommendations and tips for people who want to help. Helping point seniors in the right direction when they’re struggling and connecting them with people who can help is a meaningful, powerful act of respect and support.