In the previous installment, a number of problems for senior citizens relating to their loneliness and isolation were presented and discussed, among which were higher mortality, a deterioration of the cognitive functions, and elder abuse. This list, however, goes on:
Because traditionally, they have had limited immediate and extended family contacts, members of the LGBT communities also tend to be socially isolated. LGBT seniors typically live alone and do not have children, and, due to previous social ostracism associated with being discovered to be LGBT, they have often been estranged from their immediate families. Among many sectors of the society, there is still strong prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people, and these facts also mitigate against the development of many general social contacts. Since the normalization of gay relationships and gay marriage, many of these prejudices against LGBT people have been somewhat reduced, but LGBT individuals still have many problems associated with loneliness and isolation.
Many senior citizens are experiencing significant health problems with long-term illnesses, and these illnesses also have the effect of limiting the individual’s accessibility to form and continue social activities. Such long-term illnesses as arthritis, chronic lung diseases, depression, and mobility problems ca all have the effect of limiting social contacts and interpersonal relationships. The formation and continuation of close interpersonal relationships are adversely affected by long-term illnesses.
As noted above, loneliness and isolation can contribute to risk factors for the development of depression. Depression, further, can be associated with lowered resistance to disease and increased motivations towards suicide, both significant problems for senior citizens.
Loneliness and isolation are associated with high blood pressure. Focusing primarily on systolic blood pressure, this characteristic cuts across all categories, gender, race, ethnicity, Thus, like having pets, having social contacts and relationships can contribute to lower blood pressure.
Social isolation and loneliness contributes to lowered expectations and pessimism towards the future. Thus, socially isolated and lonely senior citizens have more restricted ideas of a future for themselves than do senior citizens with significant social contacts and relationships. They express more concern for their abilities to continue to care for themselves and to find assistance and relief from community-based programs.
There are often physical barriers mitigating against the development and continuation of close personal friendships and relationships for senior citizens.Geographic and physical isolation leads to social isolation and loneliness. When family and friends live far away or the personal transport capabilities of the senior citizens are severely limited, the senior citizen often has no alternative to social isolation and loneliness. Research has demonstrated that in the U.S., one in six seniors confront these problems of geographical or physical isolation. Associated with these problems of location are matters of personal security and the accessibility of needed services, such as medical care, food, or housing. While many senior citizens express a desire for independent living, this does not necessarily also mean that they are desirous of physical separation, social isolation, and loneliness.
If you are a senior citizen experiencing problems associated with loneliness and isolation, communication with a psychologist may provide for therapeutic, non-risky social contact. Further, the psychologist can provide input, advice, and assistance i circumstances of mental and physical deterioration, cognitive deterioration, and problems of elder abuse. Contact with a psychologist can open up new opportunities for positive social contact and interaction necessary and beneficial to senior citizens.