A Silent Threat: When thinking about the issues that negatively impact our aging population; many might first think of physical issues. However, one of the most critical concerns facing older individuals is a simpler one: loneliness. Some studies indicate that as many as 1 in 3 seniors report being chronically lonely. This can have negative impacts mentally, physically and emotionally.
However, as LCSW and JFS Care Management & Guardianship supervisor Lisa Colegrove notes, “A person shouldn’t be labeled as isolated just because they prefer to stay at home.” She adds, “A homebody will continue to be a homebody. It’s when that social butterfly stops leaving home that everyone should worry.”
Six surprising facts you may not know about senior isolation:
- An isolated person is at higher risk of exploitation, as perpetrators target older adults who are vulnerable and lack proper social support.
- Isolation can cause an individual to develop hoarding-like behavior because they fear running out of a necessary item. “If you come to visit and find a loved one has 28 12-packs of toilet paper stored in the guest room closet and this is a new behavior, this could be a sign of isolation.” Colegrove said.
- LGBT seniors are at a higher risk for isolation as they are more likely to live alone and resist home care or assisted living because of fears of discrimination.
- Long-term chronic illness can cause feelings of loneliness. Repeated stays in hospitals, followed by long periods of recuperation, can make someone feel cut-off from the life they had before.
- Caregivers spend most of their time being there for a loved one. On top of work and caregiving, there is often very little time left for socializing. Many caregivers feel cut off from their own community, and are unsure of how to reach out.
- Some people feel isolated in a crowd if they cannot see or hear. If they are not included in conversations, it is easy to feel separate, even when surrounded by family and friends.
What local resources are available to lessen isolation?
–JFS Friendly Visitors Program: Social visits to seniors and mentally and physically challenged adults in the Greater Richmond area.
–JFS Telephone Reassurance: Volunteers call M-F to chat, check-in and make sure everything is okay.
–JFS Care Management: Care Management from JFS keeps you and your loved ones safe and independent as long as possible. We can serve all, with special focus on the elderly or disabled adults.
-Using transportation from a friend, GRTA Care vans, or the Shepherd Center, to attend church services/events
–Senior Connections “Friendship Cafes”: Friendship Cafes
–Richmond Parks and Rec community centers offer programming for seniors: https://parksandrecreation.richmondgov.com
–SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay Elders ) : Is the oldest non-profit organization committed to improving the lives of GLBT elders. More information at: http://www.gayrichmond.com/programs/sage/
If you are looking for more information or want to participate in one of these programs, you can contact Jewish Family Services at 804-282-5644 or [email protected]