As the presence of digital technology becomes increasingly prevalent in our lives, so do feelings of loneliness and abandonment in our society, despite the “connectedness” social media seems to bring. Dependency on digital connections rather than physical ones leaves us vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness, and no other age group experiences this more than the elderly.
Transitioning from adulthood to the quieter, more solitude senior years can bring many changes to one’s social and mental lifestyle. The adjustments from employment to retirement, moving to a senior home, or the death of a loved one can put a tremendous amount of emotional toll on anyone, limiting social interactions and self care. Physical changes such as immobility and differences in appearance can cause insecurity and make it difficult to talk to a trusted confident. Many seniors also feel shame in experiencing these “obvious” signs of aging, and refuse to get help from professionals for the problems they face. As a result, depression caused by loneliness is rarely addressed.
Depression in elders is commonly unidentified because the symptoms are often not spoken about at all, and can lead to further health complications including higher blood pressure, heart disease, and a weakened immune system. A study done by Brigham Young University established an average of a 29% increased mortality rate, and in further studies both mental and cognitive decline were observed to be more prominent in lonely adults, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Human connections are more important now than ever as our society continues reaching record breaking highs of covid-19 cases all around the world. Seniors in particular feel more socially isolated, being unable to see family and friends face to face and resorting to an obligatory text or phone call. It’s important to make time for seniors and check in with those who are dear to you; even if these issues are not openly spoken about, they are very common and show up in unexpected ways. Taking time to genuinely connect with others makes an important impact on one’s mental and social health; no matter the demographic.