There are 75 million baby boomers who are on the verge of retirement. For the next twenty years, an average of 10,000 people per day will reach age 65, leaving jobs and friends behind and crossing that invisible threshold into retirement. While this period has often been referred to as the ‘golden years,’ it might also be known as the ‘isolation years.’
As we age, we’re faced with the loss of a spouse, loved ones and fewer interactions with family members and friends. As of the last census, 11 million people, or 28% of those aged 65 and older, lived alone. While singularly, these factors don’t lead to social isolation, they are predisposing factors.
Humans have a fundamental need for socialization and activity. Without it, they may suffer from stress, depression and even death.
Depression during the senior years has been associated with cognitive limitations and dementia and increases with the onset of a debilitating illness. Since approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50% have two or more, being aware of these risks and taking steps to encourage social interaction is essential to our aging population.
Social isolation is not a problem plaguing only those seniors living in foreign countries or rural America. It is happening in neighborhoods like ours. The evidence of social isolation is clear. What to do about is yet to be determined.
Ideally, experts say, neighborhoods and communities would keep an eye out for our older citizens and take steps to reduce social isolation. Ensuring they have easy access to transportation is one way of the major ways we can help maintain social connections.