A resident plays cards and smiles alongside a friend.

What Are The Effects of Social Isolation In the Elderly?


Everyone needs some alone time, but being cut off from the world for long periods of time isn’t good for us. In fact, some studies have found that being isolated for a prolonged period of time has the equivalent effect on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Before we continue, it’s important to note the distinction between isolation and loneliness. While both are negative to your health, isolation is a far greater hazard to your health than loneliness. Loneliness is a subjective feeling, while isolation can be measured by the amount of contact you have in one month. Isolation should be dealt with swiftly and with care.

Let’s learn more about the effects of social isolation in the elderly and the impact it can have on a person’s livelihood.

What can happen if a senior is isolated?

Isolation doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen for one sole reason. If you’re watching a loved one for signs of isolation, check for these risk factors:

  • Leaving the workforce
  • Geographic isolation
  • Loss of friends, family and/or partner
  • Lack of transportation

Once isolation sets in, a senior is immediately at a greater risk for several negative health behaviors and conditions. The National Institute on Aging considers social relationships a biomarker for health and has found that loneliness can impact both physical and mental health. For instance, isolation is connected to elevated systolic blood pressure, depression and obesity, while proper socialization can help lower chances of Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.

What can I do to avoid senior isolation?

Senior isolation is 100% preventable. If you continue to surround yourself with healthy coping activities and reach out to others, you can always avoid total isolation. In fact, it’s been found that people who live in neighborhoods where they enjoy and trust those around them had happier lives and were healthier overall.

If you or a loved one is trying to avoid isolation, consider these tips:

  • Cook a meal or go to eat. Hosting a meal or dining with others is an easy way to bring people together. Everyone has to eat at some point, making it a great equalizer for time spent together. You can attempt new recipes with friends or have a family member try a unique restaurant with you.
  • Take care of something. Having a sense of purpose helps us to feel wanted, and having something that relies on you can help foster this feeling. Caring for a small cat or dog provides companionship and can offer opportunities to socialize with other pet owners. Not ready to commit to caring for an animal? Consider taking care of a plant instead. They still need your care to survive, but come with a lower cost and commitment.
  • Find a hobby. Sitting alone for too long with nothing to do is the perfect storm to create feelings of isolation. Finding a hobby allows you to connect with others while keeping your mind engaged and stimulated. Regardless of your age or mobility, there’s something you can do for fun, like exercise, gardening, card games or cooking.
  • Join a group. Finding a group of people who share the same interests as you makes it far easier to socialize. There are plenty of options, ranging from book clubs, community betterment groups, boards of nonprofits and more. You might even think of joining a support group for other seniors to find new friends your age.  


Are you looking for a solution to senior isolation for yourself or a loved one?

Contact Culpepper Place. Our assisted living facility in Olive Branch, MS offer many socialization opportunities for you or a loved one, helping you to enjoy your golden years.


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