Mar 22, 2020
New, scientific studies are showing an actual difference in cell activity in those people who are depressed. Steve Cole, professor of medicine at UCLA, relates this surprising result in the blood cells of lonely and depressed men and women. He noted, “There is a heightened activity of blood cells, almost as if they are responding to a bacterial infection.” Researchers are now viewing this rise in cell response as a disease and a result of social isolation.
According to Louise Hawkly at the University of Chicago, “Humans are inherently social animals, and when the social network breaks down, the consequences are very real in terms of mental and physical health.”
In fact, loneliness is a killer, and increases our risk of a fatal heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, even the common cold and flu.
A report in January 2020 by the AARP is alarming. “Loneliness, is more dangerous to our health than obesity, and is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!” With the news that more and more seniors are indeed experiencing this emotion, the cry becomes, what can be done about loneliness?
It is too trifling and demeaning to tell seniors to just go out and be friendly. There are many factors that influence an aging person’s outlook on society. Many seniors live alone and no longer drive and engage in a regular routine with others.
A recent study of 3.4 million people showed that living alone increased their death risk by 32%. If an individual lives in a rural community, or has a physical impairment of vision or hearing loss and mobility issues, such factors can unwittingly lead to social isolation.
If we know these facts, can a person actually take precautions to avoid loneliness and its ramifications? What if the cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s was as simple as regular social interaction?
Retirement can be a setup for loneliness. There is no longer the need to go to the office and interact with co-workers. In fact, there is no need to get out of bed and get dressed, either.
Don’t let that happen! Leave your job, not your life. Have a plan in place for after the party and gold watch. Now is the time for indulging in a hobby, traveling abroad or honing a skill to tick off the “bucket list.”
Stay clear of solitaire on the computer, and ask Alexa for music and news. A chat site like Meetup.com will help locate other like-minded individuals, (train buffs, antique hunters, even alumni).
Know someone who is lonely (maybe yourself)? Make an effort to extend kindness to even the most casual contacts, listen carefully and respond accordingly, and keep dementia and depression at bay.