Nobody relishes the prospect of aging without a spouse or family member at their side, without friends to help them laugh at the ridiculous parts and support them through the difficult times. Yet that is just what many North American seniors face. As the baby boomer generation crosses the over-65 threshold, it grows; but many of our aging loved ones are still feeling alone in the crowd.
Statistics on Senior Isolation
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 11 million, or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. As people get older, their likelihood of living alone only increases. Additionally, more and more older adults do not have children, reports the AARP, and that means fewer family members to provide company and care as those adults become seniors.
While living alone does not inevitably lead to social isolation, it is certainly a predisposing factor. Yet another important consideration is how often seniors engage in social activities.
Statistics Canada reports that 80% of Canadian seniors participate in one or more social activities on a frequent basis (at least monthly) – but that leaves fully one-fifth of seniors not participating in weekly or even monthly activities.
Social contacts tend to decrease as we age for a variety of reasons, including retirement, the death of friends and family, or lack of mobility. Regardless of the causes of senior isolation, the consequences can be alarming and even harmful. Even perceived social isolation – the feeling that you are lonely – is a struggle for many older people. Fortunately, the past couple of decades have seen increasing research into the risks, causes, and prevention of loneliness in seniors.