Social Distancing And Loneliness

Loneliness and older adults.

While the CDC has recommended social distancing as a key factor in “flattening the curve” of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases, it is important to acknowledge how loneliness can quickly become an issue, particularly with older adults.  According to an article published by John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (YEAR), more than 20% of Americans across the lifespan reported that they often or always feel lonely.  Loneliness has been linked to a 26% increased risk for premature death. For older adults specifically, an increased risk of dementia, stroke, and heart disease can be increased and at times landing seniors in the hospital or in nursing homes.

What can be done to minimize loneliness for older adults?

The two easiest steps to combating loneliness is establishing virtual connections and being in touch with nature.  For virtual connections, many options exist for the basic technology user to the more advanced.  Exercising online with a friend, FaceTiming family, joining a virtual bible study or interest group through your local church are a few examples.  Nature is a little simpler.  Evidence suggests being exposed to sunlight and fresh air for as little as 30 minutes per day can increase the “feel good” chemicals in a person’s brain.  Thirty minutes can be divided into five minute increments throughout the day.  These recommendations aren’t meant to be prescriptive or overwhelming, they can easily be modified to fit each individual’s ability.  And, whether connecting virtually or connecting naturally or both ways work, not being lonely is important for older adults as much as the people who love them.