How Seniors Combat Social Isolation and Loneliness
A recent survey from the AARP Foundation has found that nearly one-third of adults 45 years old and older feel lonely - and that number is on the rise. Learn more about the survey and the impact of social isolation on physical and financial health.
Updated on Sep 10 2019
At first glance, it may seem like technology and social media are connecting people more than ever. And while those platforms may help in some ways, a recent survey from the AARP Foundation has found that nearly one-third of adults 45 years old and older feel lonely - and that number is on the rise. Learn more about the survey and the impact of social isolation on physical and financial health.
Medical and Financial Consequences of Social Isolation
A national survey of 3,020 midlives and older adults revealed that nearly one in three U.S. adults ages 45 and older are lonely, and experts believe that number will grow as the senior population grows. The population of lonely people over age 45 has grown by 5 million, from 42.6 million to 47.8 million, in the past eight years.
The top predictors of loneliness as revealed in the study were size and diversity of social networks, and being physically isolated. Other predictors included age, depression, anxiety, overall health, and urbanicity. Low-income individuals, unpaid caregivers, and those who identify as LBGTQ were at an increased risk for chronic loneliness. The gap in loneliness was 13 points higher for individuals earning less than $40,000 per year when compared to those earning more than $40,000 per year. Half of the respondents with income less than $25,000 reported being lonely - a telling number considering 10 million people over the age of 50 live in poverty in America.
Loneliness and isolation can derail financial plans and retirement planning as it can lead to increased healthcare costs. More than just feelings of sadness, social isolation and loneliness can have profound effects on physical and financial health. In fact, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Additionally Medicare spends an estimated $6.7 billion in additional spending annually on socially isolated older adults.
Social Media Use and Social Isolation
In the social media age, it may be surprising that so many older adults are experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social media use among seniors has more than tripled in the past decade and 42 percent of older adults use social media.
However, studies reveal that the more social media people use, the more lonely they feel. Technology tends to amplify attitudes that occur before technology use, not mitigate those feelings. The survey also revealed that chronically lonely adults turned to isolated activities to deal with their loneliness like watching television or surfing the internet. Seniors who did not experience chronic loneliness were more likely to call a friend or talk with family when feeling lonely. These effective strategies can help older adults feel more connected to their community, avoid social isolation, and even improve physical (and financial) health:
- Join a book club
- Join a community garden
- Adopt a pet
- Exercise daily
- Find a penpal
- Join a local health and fitness center
If you are concerned that a loved one’s social isolation may be a sign of a deeper depression or mental illness, contact a medical provider immediately.
Get Expert Financial Health
Feelings of isolation and loneliness can have a profound effect on financial health. Causing mental and physical health issues that can derail retirement savings, it is important to take a comprehensive and holistic approach to health. Contact a financial advisor today to help you understand how daily lifestyle choices are impacting your financial future.
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