Are You Socially Isolated

Linda Shomberg, 72 yrs old, had everything a wife could wish for: a beautiful home, a wonderful circle of friends, a loving husband, and an apartment complex that could have provided them a nest egg for a retirement of comfort and ease.

Then, like the cliché that “even good things must end,” disaster struck – a string of disasters in fact.

Her husband, Bernard, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s which wiped out their savings and his untimely death.

But before he died, they lost all their property through fraud.

Nothing was left of her old life, other than memories and her old furniture. Foreclosures and repossessions were her daily fare.

As if they were not enough, she suffered a stroke.

With everything gone, her husband, savings, property, and even friends, Linda withdrew into herself, shutting out the world that apparently was full of pain, becoming socially isolated.

She rarely went out of the house, or interacted with other people.


What is Social Isolation?

Social isolation is a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society.

It is very harmful for senior citizens. In fact it is considered as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, and can lead to higher rates of chronic diseases, depression, dementia, and death, according to experts.

It can be devastating for seniors, and the problem is getting bigger as more and more people get older.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 11 million senior citizens (28% of people aged 65+), who lived alone. While this does not automatically mean that they will be socially isolated, but they have the predisposing factor to become one.

A recent survey done a by a charity organization that supports people to age at home shows that, along with poor healthy, and financial difficulties, the biggest fear of senior citizens is the feeling of being alone.

Explains Dr. Kevin McCarroll from Mercer’s Institute for Successful Aging:

“People who are lonely are more likely to be physically unhealthy and it’s a big risk factor for depression.

There’s increased mortality, increased risk of being institutionalized. Then there are associated behaviors, such as people who are lonely might be more likely to turn to alcohol abuse, have poorer access to health care,and have a less healthy lifestyle.”

There is no singular cause for social isolation, but is thought to be generated by several factors like size of a person’s social network, level of mobility, health issues, death of a partner, outliving family members and friends, or a growing fear of getting injured outside of the house.


Are You Showing these Signs?

Social isolation can happen to anyone, at any age. But because of stronger support mechanisms, young people can easily bounce back.

Not so with older people who may not have the strength, desire, motivation, and social support needed to help them out.

You need not be battered by the difficulties in life, like Linda had, to become socially isolated. Constant loneliness, poor health, death of a spouse, a child or close friend, financial problems, for example, can make you withdraw from the world.

It is very important, therefore, to know if you are a candidate. So if you are suffering from the following, you must immediately reach out for help:

o  Difficulty in interacting with other people;
o  Constant feelings of anxiety;
o  Putting up alibis to be alone;
o  Scared to get out of the house or feel it pointless;
o  Getting annoyed with people in your regular social circle;
o  Not caring to tidy up your home;
o  Refrain doing something with a bit of risk;
o  Getting disconnected with the world and blaming others for it;
o  Unproductive idleness.

There are no prescription drugs for social isolation. Just a large dose of determination to reach out for help before you become a medical or mental case.


How to get back to the world:

Social isolation is a solvable problem. All you have to do is reach out for help.

Linda reached out to a local branch of a non-profit, volunteer organization, the Neighborhood Network.

Volunteer drivers took her to doctor appointments, helped her in some everyday errands like buying groceries.

Through the group, Linda slowly came out of her self-created shell.

Recently, Linda started a new ministry at her church called Blessing Bags to provide food and supplies to the homeless.

Often, you can get out of it simply by having your hair done, going to the library, or church, says Jayla Sanches Warren, director of Denver’s Area Agency for Aging.

And you have to. The alternative is not very encouraging. In fact, it is very gloomy. It can lead to early death.

Carlos Salina de Gortari said it cryptically, “Isolation is a self-defeating dream.”

It is both ironic and tragic that in this age of connectivity, where one can talk or send messages and photos to anybody in the world at the press of a key, some people are completely outside of the loop, either by choice of circumstance.

Don’t be one of them.


Health Secrets