By Maren Turner, AARP Kansas Director
Do you know an older person who is socially isolated? Chances are you do, considering the prevalence can be as high as 43% for older people living in the community. People who are socially isolated often do not have fulfilling and quality engagements with other people. They are at risk for hospital readmissions, an increased number of falls, and socially isolated older adults are at an increased risk for all-cause mortality. Isolation also contributes to other problems older people face, such as hunger, housing, and financial issues.
Social isolation can be caused for a number of reasons, including the loss of transportation. People living in places without affordable or available transportation may not be able to visit friends and family, do grocery shopping, or attend church services regularly. Caregiving can also trigger isolation as caregivers often work by themselves, do not get sufficient physical activity, and can sometimes sacrifice their own health and social interactions to meet the needs of their loved one. And the loss of a spouse, either through death or divorce, leaves a person feeling disconnected and stranded.
Social isolation is a complex, major health problem. Reach out to someone today you havenâ€™t seen in a while and invite him or her to join you for a cup of coffee. Call and check-in on a friend who may have recently lost a spouse. And offer someone a ride to the store, to the barbershop, or to visit the doctor.
Combating isolation is going to take the work of all of us!