Why Social Isolation in Seniors Matters (And How to Fix It)

Older woman look sadly out of her window.

Seniors need as much support and care from their families and friends as possible — but unfortunately, they aren’t always able to maintain the same level of social interaction they once enjoyed.

And among those who move into senior living communities, the reported rates of loneliness increase significantly. Feelings of social isolation in seniors often manifest into a host of health issues, including depression and anxiety. This has made it a priority for many staff and leaders in these communities to find solutions that keep their residents engaged and connected to their friends and family. In addition to providing social events and services to reduce loneliness and isolation, tools like the HandsFree Health WellBe Smart Speaker can help.

Understanding Social Isolation in Senior Citizens

Moving into an assisted living community or nursing home can be an understandably stressful experience for senior citizens. Transitioning from a place where you have made countless memories into an entirely new setting is difficult for anyone. 

Senior woman in a wheelchair alone in her room looking out of a window.

Friends and family can provide vital support and care for their loved ones throughout the move, but not all seniors have a strong support system around them. And once seniors are settled into their new homes, normal life resumes and it can be hard for friends and family to visit frequently. In fact nearly 60% of nursing home residents do not have consistent visitors.

Loneliness is More Than Just a Feeling

While feeling lonely is a problem itself, it often manifests itself in physical symptoms as well. According to the CDC,  some of the health risks associated with social isolation in seniors include:

  • A 50% increased risk of dementia
  • A 29% increased risk of heart disease 
  • A 32% increased risk of stroke
  • Elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide
  • Increased risk of premature death from all causes

However, the list does not stop there. The relationship between loneliness and its effects on the body is very well researched. Some researchers believe that prolonged social isolation in seniors brings as many health problems as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

Because social isolation in seniors is a serious precursor to a host of health issues, the problem needs more attention than it is getting. But, how can seniors get the companionship they need from a senior living community? 

How You Can Help Seniors Stay More Socially Engaged 

One of the best ways senior community managers can help residents feel connected with others is to support a close community. Encourage your residents to get to know their neighbors and develop relationships with the people they live near and see daily results in intimate relationships.

One way to encourage this type of bonding and create a community is through a busy and varied events calendar. Some ideas for events include: 

  • Birthday parties
  • Storytime
  • Musical events
  • Food-related activities
  • Game nights
  • Seasonal festivities
  • Pet visitation
  • Crafts
  • Community garden
  • Art projects

Family visits their grandfather outside his nursing home. The list can be as long as you want it to be; the only limit is the creativity of your staff and what your residents would enjoy. 

In addition, try to include activities and events that include the friends and families of your residents. Giving families a set date and a plan for when they visit their senior makes them much more likely to commit to a visit.

Event planning can go a long way toward developing a strong community and encouraging frequent visitation from family and friends. But, you also have another powerful tool at your disposal to help connect your seniors to their friends and family and reduce social isolation. 

WellBe Smart Speaker: The Help You and Your Loved Ones Need

Most seniors would love to spend more time with their friends and family. But busy schedules, long distances, the ongoing pandemic, and other factors can get in the way of in-person visits. 

The WellBe Smart Speaker can help provide the attention and care that seniors need, even when they can’t connect with their loved ones in person. WellBe is a voice-activated virtual health assistant that does much more than provide medication reminders and health information. 

WellBe offers a wide selection of entertainment, including access to music, audiobooks, and news. But thanks to its voice-controlled microphones, it also provides a link between seniors and their loved ones. It offers hands-free calling — all they need to say is “WellBe, call my daughter” and the call will connect. In addition, the device tells your seniors when they have notifications and can read out messages that friends and family send to them. 

The WellBe Smart Speaker can be the much-needed communication link between your seniors and their loved ones, keeping them entertained, healthy, safe, and in touch. From informing their family about events to having conversations with people from afar, the WellBe Smart Speaker provides the companionship your seniors need. 

Click here to learn more about the WellBe Smart Speaker and the other senior living tech that will improve your seniors’ quality of life and streamline your facility.

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