Although stay-at-home orders and social distancing have helped flatten the COVID-19 curve, they’ve caused millions of older Americans to rethink their lifestyles. In fact, many aging in place seniors who are used to being active and socially engaged are now dealing with social isolation and loneliness- neither of which are good for their health and wellbeing. If you’ve got an elderly relative who’s sheltering in place weighing the risks and benefits of visiting them can be hard. Here’s how to make the right decision. 

How Loneliness & Social Isolation Affect Seniors

An estimated 13.8 million seniors in the US live alone, which represents 28% of the total aging population. Mental health experts point out that loneliness and social isolation are two different processes. For example, someone can still feel lonely when surrounded by family and friends. 

An elderly individual can also become socially isolated for reasons like poor mobility, loss of a spouse, moving away from friends and family, or lack of reliable transportation- leading to feelings of loneliness.

Unfortunately, researchers have found that social isolation and loneliness place seniors at higher risk for health problems like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Cognitive decline
  • Obesity
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease 

Does My Loved One Need Me There?

In addition to the social benefits of visiting them your aging relative may need your assistance for activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, toileting, meals, and dressing. Are your worried that they may not live much longer because they’re so frail? Did they just get out of the hospital? If any of these circumstances are true, the positives of seeing your senior in person probably outweigh the negatives