As a previous Aging Matters blog discussed, the holiday season may be difficult for some older adults who are experiencing social isolation. There are many contributing factors that place an older adult at risk for loneliness and social isolation. According to the McMaster Aging Portal; “Older adults are at increased risk of being socially isolated or lonely. By the time people reach their 80s, the majority live on their own, mostly because of widowhood. This is particularly the case for older women who are more likely to be widowed than older men. Older people’s social networks often get smaller for other reasons as well – children may have moved away, along with grandchildren, and aging siblings and friends may have died. Loneliness is also prevalent among older adults. One in five Canadians aged 65 or older indicated that they felt lonely some of the time or often in a recent study. The proportion is even higher among those 85 years or older – 25% of individuals in that age bracket felt lonely some of the time or often. Living alone, health problems and disability, sensory impairment such as hearing loss, and major life events such as loss of a spouse have all been identified as risk factors for social isolation and loneliness.”
Fortunately, there are many community campaigns available worldwide to ensure that older adults are not alone during the holidays. One example is the Community Christmas project which believes that ‘no elderly person in the UK should be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be’. The project provides resources and support for those who wish to provide companionship for older adults on Christmas Day.
Studies have shown that older adults who use technology feel less lonely. Technology provides individuals with the tools to communicate and engage with family and friends who may live far away. Social websites such as Chumbuggy.com strive to provide a ‘positive and safe community’ for older adults to engage with others.
The Centre for Elder Research wishes everyone a happy holiday season and all the best in the new year!