The pandemic has affected all of us one way or another. Although there always is a silver lining, it’s important to acknowledge the negative side effects on society. One of the key affected groups is the elderly. If you want to learn about how the pandemic and social isolation have impacted the elderly, we’ve compiled a few points to get you in the know.
Social Isolation – How Did We Get Here?
Social isolation is defined as the complete or almost complete lack of contact with society as an individual. Social isolation and loneliness are connected but they represent two different things. Loneliness is the involuntary feeling we get when we feel alone or disconnected from others. It’s no wonder we’ve all experienced loneliness since we’ve all been doing a lot of social isolation recently.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, social isolation has been practiced to keep society safe. When done right, it’s proven to be an effective method to combat the spread of the virus, but there have been some adverse side effects. To put it plainly, humans are social creatures and we enjoy the company of others. Contact with family, friends, and passers-by have a positive effect on us. What started as a way to protect people, may have unintentionally caused more harm. And no group has felt this harder than the frail, old and alone senior citizens.
The Elderly – Can Loneliness Be Dangerous?
Even before the pandemic, elderly members of society experienced the most loneliness. Senior citizens do not go about society as younger citizens do due to several reasons. Mobility, autonomy, retirement or unemployment, health issues, and safety all played a role. Leaving the elderly more susceptible to being alone and feeling alone.
Short-lived feelings of loneliness are fine, but prolonged loneliness is where the problems start. Loneliness has been shown to have disastrous effects on both mental and physical health, especially for the elderly. Research at https://www.upliftingmobility.com has shown that prolonged feelings of loneliness trigger a stress response in the immune system. This response can lead to many mental and physical health issues or even premature death. Mental and health problems such as dementia, heart disease, and strokes are more common in people experiencing loneliness.
Because of the current measures, the elderly have been forced to isolate themselves. They’re encouraged not to have visitors or see their friends and family or go to the grocery store. This removal of autonomy would pose a problem for anyone. Without any help, this can have terrible negative effects on the mind especially for the elderly. For some, simple actions like getting food and medicine are made near impossible. Without help, senior citizens will find themselves in a very difficult position and with very few options.
Another factor is that on average, senior citizens are not able to navigate the world of social media or technology. This further stops them from connecting with people through the internet or telephones and only adds to their isolation. On top of all that, there is the added stress of worrying about loved ones and their health. This stress can contribute to their declining mental and physical health, according to research.
Combating Loneliness – How to Help
It is clear to see why the pandemic has taken such a toll on the elderly and why their health is at such a risk. So what can be done to ensure that the effects of the pandemic measures do not leave a permanent mark on the body and mind? There are many ways to help your elderly friends and family and try to minimize the feeling of being alone.
For senior citizens, the best way to help them would be to stay in contact. If you have any elderly relatives or neighbors, try to check in with them and see if they need anything. A simple grocery run or a trip to the pharmacist for them is a good place to start. A simple conversation or smile might make the world of a difference to someone experiencing extreme loneliness. If you are unable to connect with a senior citizen through the telephone or internet, look into installing that line of communication. It might take a while and a lot of explaining, but it would do wonders in helping connect people in these tough times.
Loneliness is a disease that can harm both your mental and physical health. The elderly and other high-risk groups have felt the effects of loneliness the most due to social isolation because of the pandemic. Fight the feeling of loneliness by educating yourself, staying connected, and staying in touch. Stay safe, and give your elderly relative a call!