Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Kaiser Health News ran a story about the impact of loneliness in elders. Like Hunger Or Thirst, Loneliness In Seniors Can Be Eased explains that loneliness is "fixable".
[L]oneliness is the exception rather than the rule in later life. And when it occurs, it can be alleviated: It’s a mutable psychological state... Only 30 percent of older adults feel lonely fairly frequently, according to data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, the most definitive study of seniors’ social circumstances and their health in the U.S....The remaining 70 percent have enough fulfilling interactions with other people to meet their fundamental social and emotional needs.
There are significant physical and psychological manifestations of loneliness but the good news is that it can be resolved. The article discusses a study on loneliness, with one result worth mentioning here, "[w]hat helped older adults who had been lonely recover? Two factors: spending time with other people and eliminating discord and disturbances in family relationships." The study also examined loneliness prevention factors; the "study also looked at protective factors that kept seniors from becoming lonely. What made a difference? Lots of support from family members and fewer physical problems that interfere with an individual’s independence and ability to get out and about."
The article distinguishes between loneliness and isolation, an important point. The article discusses a couple of ways to alleviate loneliness: altering perceptions and investing in relationships. The article also mentions a project from The Netherlands, "a six-week “friendship enrichment program” [with the] goal is to help people become aware of their social needs, reflect on their expectations, analyze and improve the quality of existing relationships and develop new friendships."