Social isolation can be devastating to seniors
Linda Shomberg suffered a string of misfortunes which drove her into social isolation. This is her story…
Linda, 71 years old, had everything a wife can wish for: a beautiful home, a loving husband, a wonderful circle of friends and an apartment complex that could have financially supported them the rest of their retirement years.
Then, from out of nowhere, disaster struck. As they say, “When it rains, it pours” – that’s what Linda had.
Bernard, her husband, got afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease which ate up a lot of their savings and led to his death. Before he died, however, they became victims of online fraud which annihilated whatever was left with their finances. As if these were not enough, Linda suffered a stroke.
To add salt to injury, Linda faced a lot of foreclosures due to their unpaid obligations.
With her spirit broken and nothing left but old memories and a broken furniture set, Linda retreated into herself, fearful of another disaster that could engulf her in its wrath.
She closeted herself in her home, hardly venturing out, or talking to other people.
What is social isolation?
Social isolation is a state of complete or near-complete withdrawal from society; it is like shutting the entire world out of your life.
It is bad news for seniors like you and I. According to experts, its ill effect on you is equivalent to equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. You can get chronic diseases, go into depression, dementia, and even untimely death.
Young adults, resilient and with a lot of friends to help them out of the social isolation hole, can handle it better. You may neither have the stamina to crawl out of the rut you are in nor that many helping hands to pull you out – especially if you live alone.
In 2011 there were 11 million senior citizens (28% of people aged 65 and above) living alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While they may not be socially isolated, their situation predisposed them to be.
Living alone, together with health and financial issues, is one of the biggest fears among elderly people like you, according to a survey done by a charitable organization supporting people who age at home.
Social isolation is not necessarily a mental health issue but caused by a mind fed with imagined or real fears, i.e., loneliness, lack of mobility, health and financial issues, death of a spouse or a close friend, fear of getting injured outside of home, and many more.
Signs of social isolation creeping in:
Social isolation does not happen overnight. Like a single termite that finds its way into your home will soon become a colony of termites.
You cannot precisely recall what precipitated it, but you can feel it slowly embracing you when you feel these:
o Difficulty in interacting with people;
o Being annoyed by your regular circle of friends;
o Frequently feeling anxious;
o Not doing anything with a bit of risk;
o Not caring about home and personal hygiene;
o Want to be left alone, and not go out;
o Disconnection with the world;
o Blaming others for your misfortunes;
o Not doing anything useful or productive;
If these feelings rule your life, do something before you are in too deep. There are no prescription drugs against social isolation. Help will come only if you make the first move. Do it fast because you are killing yourself every day.
How Linda got out from her social isolation:
Not wanting to be buried in a destructive world of her own making, Linda reached out to the local branch of a non-profit, volunteer organization, the Neighborhood Network.
The group provided her a volunteer driver for her doctor appointments and helped her with some of her chores like buying groceries.to take her doctor appointments, helped her with everyday chores like buying groceries.
These little acts of kindness made Linda realize that there is so much in life than wallow in destructive self-pity; in too much negativity.
Linda is currently running a ministry at her church, the Blessing Bag, which provides food and other supplies to the homeless.
She has found her purpose again!
You don’t have to be a Linda copycat, though there is nothing wrong with doing volunteer work. You can do something else avoid social isolation. You can go to your favorite hairdresser and do a prim up job, go to the library and read a book, or find peace and solace inside a church (this is my favorite).
Whatever you do, always keep in mind that social isolation is a self-defeating dream.
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