Loneliness actually has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, which makes it even more dangerous than obesity, says Cigna, citing a 2010 report.
Isolation is of such concern that young people 16 to 24 who are neither employed nor in school are now tracked and classified as “disconnected youth.”
Seniors often report loneliness, especially as they age, step out of the workplace and lose family and friends, said Mary Durell, chief operating officer of CICOA, Indiana’s largest Area Agency on Aging.
Moving closer to family can actually make matters worse, adds Dana Robinson, CICOA’s director of marketing and communications, as seniors lose social connections beyond the family. Before moving, adult children and their parents should devise a plan for how the seniors will be connected to the community in their new home.
Caregivers of seniors with cognitive impairment often experience loneliness and isolation, whether they are seniors themselves or an adult child caring for a parent with dementia, says Nicole Fowler, a Regenstrief Institute investigator at the Indiana University School of Medicine who studies the caregiver experience.
Spouses in particular may have an enhanced sense of loneliness because their partner is still there but can no longer interact as he or she might have in the past.