According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11 million or 28% of people age 65 and older live alone. Although many of these older adults don’t feel lonely or socially isolated, studies have shown that 43% of adults aged 60 and older say they’re lonely, even when some are surrounded by family and friends. This may lead to a decline in cognitive abilities, and increased risks of dementia, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
Social isolation and loneliness may result in outcomes beyond poor mental health. Recent studies found that a lack of solid social relationships:
- Significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, similar to the risks from smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- Is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Results in poorer sleep quality.
Senior Friendships: Better Quality of Life and Higher Self-Esteem
Good friends are also good for mental health. Seniors with a friend or two are less likely to feel isolation and loneliness. Friends can also:
- Make you happier, more confident, and improve your self-worth
- Help you cope during difficult times
- Be an incentive to purge unhealthy lifestyle habits
According to the Mayo Clinic, friends have positive implications for your physical health and can reduce depression, blood pressure, and your waistline. Harvard Medical School’s studies suggest that people with social support from family, friends, and their community are happier, healthier, and live longer.
It doesn’t take much to make people feel the love. Social support can include providing tangible assistance, offering advice or information, and expressions of affection.
Caring Connections: Building Relationships on Conversation at a Time
Caring Connections is a Council on Aging program that provides a friendly telephone call or visit from a volunteer to someone living or feeling alone. The program aims to eliminate or reduce isolation and loneliness among seniors.
This no-cost program is an opportunity to meet someone new, discover common interests, and feel more connected to the community.
Joining Caring Connections is easy! If you would like to receive a friendly phone call and meet someone new in the community, contact Jamie Lacore at CaringConnections@councilonaging.org or call (541) 678-5483. To participate in the program, you must be 60 or over, and live in Deschutes, Crook, or Jefferson County.
Volunteering is easy too. You will need to call your phone friend at least once a week, commit to six months of phone calls, attend training, and pass a background check. Contact Marianne McClure at Volunteer@councilonaging.org, visit www.councilonaging.org/volunteer to sign up online, or call (541) 678-5483 if you are interested in volunteering.