Two recent studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine show how loneliness and a solitary lifestyle can be dangerous for older adults. Many older adults live at home, and this may put them at a higher risk of becoming disabled, or even more likely to die earlier than their peers. Those who know a senior who lives alone may want to consider enlisting the help of personal care services.
In one of the studies, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School set out to determine whether older adults living alone were at an increased risk for mortality and cardiovascular disease, reports Senior Journal. The study tapped data from the 44,572 participants who took part in the REACH program. Of that group, 8,594, or 19 percent, lived alone.
Researchers found that those who lived alone had a higher four-year mortality and cardiovascular death rate compared to those who did not live on their own. Patients between the ages of 45 and 65 had a 2 percent higher rate, and those between 66 and 80 had a .9 percent higher rate. Surprisingly, the discrepancy between rates of those living alone and those living with others did not carry through to those who were over 80 years old.
The second study, carried out by researchers from the University of California, San Fransisco, examined 1,604 people who took part in a Health and Retirement study beginning in 2002 with a follow-up in 2007, according to MedPage Today.
Participants were asked about their feelings of loneliness and isolation. They used these answers to designate some individuals as lonely, and of those individuals, 27 percent lived alone. Researchers found that the lonely individuals were more likely to have a decline in daily activities, new difficulty using their arms, a decline in mobility and more difficulty when it came to climbing.
"On the basis of our findings, we hypothesize that health outcomes in older people may be improved by focusing on policies that promote social engagement and, more importantly, by helping elders develop and maintain satisfying interpersonal relationships," the researchers wrote, according to the news source.
Older adults can stay socially engaged by interacting with their peers or going on social outings. Family caregivers who are feeling burnt out may need to employ professional residential home care to ensure that their loved one has opportunities for social activities.
Residential Home Health is a leading provider of in-home nursing and therapy care throughout Michigan and Illinois. In addition to home health care, Residential’s continuum of care includes Residential Hospice and Healthy Living Medical Supply. If you are interested in learning more about the home care services Residential provides, please call 866-902-4000 or visit www.residentialhomehealth.com.