Many people attribute chronic diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease, etc.) to be the leading causes of health decline; but what if I were to tell you that loneliness has similar, if not worse, effects on one’s health? A recent study, conducted by Richard Lang, MD, chair of preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, noted that, “loneliness and social isolation are as much a threat to your health as obesity.” (Everyday Health)
In 2010, the U.S. census found that 28% of adults 65+ lived alone. (A Place for Mom) While it’s not fair to assume that all older adults who live alone are lonely, it is legitimate to note that living alone can lead to loneliness, which is proven to have negative effects on health, such as:
- Higher rates of dementia
- Development of long-term illnesses
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of death
Many older adults are not aware of the resources or activities available, designed specifically for older adults, that will help to combat loneliness in their daily lives. From my perspective, loneliness is something that should be treated as a physical, mental, and spiritual concern. Given that Iora is transforming healthcare through relationships we have some relationship centered suggestions on how to manage loneliness within the Iora community:
The benefits of volunteering go beyond just getting out of the house and socializing (although those are both important parts of how it helps combat loneliness). Volunteering is a great way to build relationships with people of all ages while doing something good for your community. The mental health benefits of volunteering were shown in a study that noted “older adults found that participation in community service was more strongly correlated with life satisfaction for retirees than for those individuals who continued to work for pay.” There are numerous other places to find volunteer opportunities as well; check out your local newspaper, check in with a friend/family member/neighbor about recommendations, or search online for opportunities in your area. A good search to try is: “volunteer opportunities near me”. Those options should help get you started!
Take up a new hobby
Trying something new can be fun and exciting. A lot of older adults enjoy trying things like gardening, knitting, learning an instrument, arts and crafts, etc. These activities often allow for socializing outside the house to meet like-minded folks who enjoy doing the things you might enjoy. At Iora we could always use some new artwork displayed or musicians playing in our reception areas. If you would like Iora to set up lessons based on your interest in learning a new hobby, let your care team know and we’ll see how we can help.
Join a gym
Regular exercise, within reason based on your health needs and goals, can be really good to combat loneliness. The reason joining a gym to get regular exercise can help is because it allows for socialization with other people who like to exercise, releases endorphins (hormones that are secreted during/after exercise that cause happiness), and can lead to improved physical health overall.
Attend a class or workshop
There are numerous classes and workshops offered for free that are tailored to the needs of older adults. Classes range from support groups, with people who are looking to chat about their lives, to more active classes, like exercising or aerobics. To learn more about the resources in your area, reach out to a friend, family member, community leader, or even your doctor. They can likely recommend some options that would work well with your schedule and interests.
Get involved in the Iora Primary Care community
In our community of seniors, there is always someone looking to learn or teach. Some community members may even struggle getting access to healthy food or may be struggling with a medical condition that you have lived with. Becoming an Iora Community Champion means serving as a community volunteer to help others within our Iora community. This could be done by teaching a class on knitting, helping someone like you who is struggling with diabetes or even meeting to play some games or attend a class at your practice or elsewhere.
Call a help line for support and a listening ear
The Institute of Aging’s 24-hour toll free friendship line is a great resource to chat through your feelings and concerns around loneliness. Give them a call today at 800-971-0016.
Remember that you are never alone
At Iora Primary Care, we offer free onsite classes and/or time with our Behavioral Health Specialist and Health Coaches. Our patients (65+) have all the time they need with professionals who listen, care and can address their health needs, concerns and goals. Find the closest Iora Primcary Care practice at https://ioraprimarycare.com/practice-locator and don’t hesitate to contact us.