Social isolation is more than just the holiday blues; seniors who are not engaged with their communities can suffer physically.  Studies have found that older adults who do not feel they are valued members of society can slip into depression, withdrawing from others and failing to eat or sleep properly, get regular exercise or keep doctor appointments.  Social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of mortality in older adults and may lead to a quicker cognitive decline in some seniors.

Many seniors face loneliness. Even if family members live in the same city, adult children often become so busy with their own lives and social obligations that they fail to recognize how much their parents or grandparents look forward to spending time with them during the holidays.

Caregivers may notice a sudden change in mood, appetite, or energy level in their loved one, other symptoms may involve, sadness, sleep disturbances or lethargy.  The key in assessing for SAD is to tune into sudden changes that seem to revolve around the cold, dark months of winter.  Of course, any symptoms of depression should be reported to the physician regardless of the season.  

The authors undertook a scoping review focused on answering 5 questions related to population health patterns, health risks and ouctomes of ethnocultural older adults compared to other older adults, unmet health needs, health care service use and health promotion and disease prevention within the Canadian context.

Social isolation is a reality experienced by many seniors and particularly immigrant and refugee seniors. Even though it is not easy to recognize, it has significant health, social, and economic consequences. The Government of Canada has taken an active interest in the issue of social isolation as have provincial governments. At the community level, several organizations individually and in partnerships, have been actively engaged in offering programs and services to seniors at risk for social isolation.

Social isolation can often pose serious health threats to the senior population, and it’s more common than most people may think. It’s important to foster an environment where seniors can stay socially engaged as they get older. Here are some ways to promote social health, connectedness and help seniors avoid social isolation.

This chapter from the World Health Organizations publication “Prisons and Health” provides a global perspective to the challenges of caring for aging prisoners in correctional institutions. It reviews the issues of accelerated aging, multimorbidity, polypharmacy, falls, dementia, incontinence, sensory impairment, symptom burden, functional status and environment, mental health issues, end of life care and death and re-entry into the community.

This NHS paper gives an overview of health problems in older inmates, prison healthcare and particular health issues seen in this population. It also includes a section looking at older prisoners in Canada.

Want to know what Age Friendly is, or all about? Age Friendly Chatham-Kent presents this video to explain how and why all communities can benefit from developing policies and infrastructure that support healthy and active aging. Through our actions we aim to build a better more inclusive, respectful and accessible Chatham-Kent.

 

This pdf presentation and audio recording of a webinar hosted by the Canadian Gerontological Association, Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Health Human Resource Network reviews demographic and health, psychological and community level approaches to addressing social isolation in older adults.

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