Dementia: Is it more painful to forget, or to be forgotten?

Recently, there have been studies done to understand the effects of loneliness and isolation on Senior Citizens. The United States Census Bureau has reported that approximately 28% of people over 65 live alone and the number increases to 51% for those seniors over 75. Regardless of the facts of a person’s isolation, seniors who feel lonely and isolated are more likely to describe having poor physical and/or mental health, as reported in a study using data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. May 5, 2017

For those seniors with dementia, isolation and loneliness are even more devastating. The results of a large scale study in London indicated that the average amount of social interaction for seniors with dementia was about 2 minutes per day. One of the conclusions reached, was that just one hour of social interaction each week, minus any other intervention, improved dementia care for the elderly.

In response to this study, Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed a Minister of Loneliness for the UK, saying, “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly…people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

“Connect2Affect,” the AARP Foundations program (connect2affect.org) has referred to elder loneliness and isolation as a growing health epidemic. It has the compared the health risks of prolonged isolation with “smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Effects of isolation and loneliness include: a higher risk of long term illness and death; cognitive decline and dementia; depression and pessimism; high blood pressure; poor self-esteem, fear, and an increased risk of elder abuse.

What our volunteers do with SRC, is one of the most meaningful services possible. They help seniors remain healthier, happier and more cognitively able. Whether it’s an hour’s companionship, help with organization and bill paying, installing grab bars or touching base by phone, know that you have truly made a difference in that senior’s life.

We want each volunteer to know that your touch, however large or small, may have turned what could have been a really difficult day into a great one, where an older adult feels valued, acknowledged and cared about.