In normal times, older adults tend to become socially isolated when living alone, have little contact with friends and family, and do not get involved with community or civic groups. The death of a spouse, physical difficulties, caregiving and giving up driving contribute to it.
And now the double whammy, a pandemic requiring social isolation for our group as well as the social isolation occurring through changes in our lives.
What can be done about social isolation?
The literature describes two major groups of remedies—national system changes with policy, education, and clinical practice and personal changes within in our lives that nurture social connectedness (Luban J., 2017).
At the national level, policies that move us to age-friendly communities that foster and support strong social ties through a built environment focusing on the eight domains of livability. Ergo, the importance of completing the MN Age Friendly Survey:
Another policy change would be coverage for hearing aids and examinations by Medicare. There is strong evidence that severe hearing loss contributes to social isolation.
In terms of clinical practice,it is recommended to develop geriatric protocols that include a screening assessment for isolation as part of regular check-ups as well as formal recommendations for patients to follow.
To do this, we need more research on social isolation to investigate the different causes and develop an inventory of successful interventions that can be shared with policy and practice communities.
Lastly, Investing in a public education campaign to bring attention and create awareness about the high incidence of social isolation with older adults as well as the need to make changes in how we plan for retirement is a good start.
Building a social network, joining groups, cultivating relationships with our families and extended families, and most interestingly, considering carefully about moving are imortant decisions in retirement. Leaving family and friends to live in a new place in retirement can lead to social isolation. Unless you are moving to be near important people in your social network, experts advise that you may be better off staying where you are, close to your social network.
We are often reluctant to get involved with the bigger picture of change, especially when our communities often think of us as a population that needs care and using resources, vs a population of life-long contributors who want to be involved, as evidenced by the high rate of older adult volunteerism across the Range. It is good to have talking points!
Tomorrow we will look at personal ways we can stay connected during the social isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Enjoy this lovely day!
The Mesabi YMCA is open, requiring reservations for daily entry. Older adults are advised to avoid gyms and fitness centers for now. Click the link below to access Colleen and Connie’s workout videos. Accessing the workouts through this email allows the Y to track activity and negotiate with the health plans for reimbursement:
Silver Sneakers Classes
Session 1 with Colleen
Session 2 with Colleen
Session 1 with Connie
Session 2 with Connie
Enjoy your experience with us today!
Connie, Colleen, Carol, Meribeth, Nicole