We live in a time when we can communicate with friends and family via just a few taps on a smartphone screen. However, despite the increased connectivity that technology brings, research indicates that as a society, we are lonelier than ever before.
Recent research has shown that there are more than 11 million seniors (aged 65 and above) living alone without support. And probably, no other generation or age group feels the acute pain of loneliness more than the elderly.
Why are seniors so lonely?
Age brings many difficult changes that contribute to a lonelier life. One of the biggest problems that seniors face is that their social circle shrinks as they grow older. Friends and family move away or die and the routine of the young is so hectic that it doesn’t allow frequent visits.
Many older people suffer from health problems, so they still have to get over the feeling of shame about these “obvious” signs of aging. But when an entire group of friends is dealing with all these changes, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to stay together or keep in touch regularly.
Unfortunately, many older people experience a decline in the number and quality of their relationships as they get older. There is often little attention to deep and engaging communication between an elderly person and the rest of the family. According to one of essayontime reviews, constant communication is the sauce of life. People start dying physically and psychologically when they don’t communicate or cannot find someone to talk to.
The changes mentioned above are factors, but family members are often so tired of coping with their daily responsibilities that they have little time or energy to really meet an elderly person’s emotional and social needs. A noticeable modern trend is the breakdown of relationships in extended families.
This makes many seniors feel as if they have been set aside and forgotten. This is especially true for families who live in other cities and find it difficult to set aside time to visit their seniors.
What are the consequences of loneliness in the elderly?
Aside from the detrimental mental effects of feeling that you don’t have satisfying personal relationships, feeling lonely can also hurt your physical health. Here are some case studies and real-life examples:
- Increased risk of death: A research done at the University of California, San Francisco found that seniors who reported feeling lonely had a 45 percent increased risk of death. In fact, loneliness kills more than obesity!
Mental and physical decline: Sequel to the study mentioned above, respondents also had a 59% higher risk of mental and physical decline than those who were more sociable. This decline manifests itself specifically in participants’ abilities to perform daily activities. In other words, loneliness has the potential to accelerate an elderly person’s need for a source of long-term care.
Loneliness is believed to act in the body in a similar way to chronic stress. It increases stress hormone levels, impairs immune responses and contributes to inflammation, mental illness, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Loneliness is contagious: The University of Chicago recently analyzed data from a cardiovascular study that began in 1948 and found another striking feature of loneliness: it is contagious, just like a bad cold!
Finding solace in animal-assisted therapy
Pets, for example, can help you live a longer and healthier life. Having a dog is associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes. Some researchers studied men and women aged 40 to 80 and tracked their health records (and if they owned a dog) for about twelve years.
The study found that owning a dog could lower the risk of death by 33% in people who live alone. Already, the risk of death related to cardiovascular disease decreased by 36% compared to single people without a pet.
Also, if you like walking with your dog, you are more likely to be in better shape than your colleagues who don’t walk with dogs. In another study, older people who had a dog walked faster and longer and were more active at home than those without a dog.
Pets keep loneliness and isolation at a distance. This is because they can make us busy and involved in daily life, as they require care such as food, attention, and walks. Because of this, people are starting to adopt animal-assisted therapy to treat depression and other mood disorders.
The problem is so great that a nursing home in France is using a pet robot named Zora to interact with residents, assist in the care of the elderly and combat their loneliness. When the robot was purchased at the nursing home, employees noticed a curious phenomenon: many patients developed an emotional bond with the robot.
The idea that we need a robot to take care of us in old age may seem absurd now, but it is the trend for the future. The elderly population increases year after year and by 2050, the number of people over 60 will be 2.1 billion, according to the United Nations. However, science has proven that human, artificial, or animal pet companion can hold the key to a more fun and emotionally satisfying routine and longer life.
About the author:
Isabell Gaylord is a leading is good at journalism sphere and a lot of people find her articles helpful. She contributes to professional essay writing service a lot and her essays are referred to self-improvement, writing, blogging, inspiration. Find Isabell on Twitter.