A Growing Problem for All of Us as We Age: Loneliness and Isolation

CircleTalk was innovated over six years ago based upon our belief that relationships and connection matters to all adults as they age and run the risk of loss, loneliness and isolation. Almost ever day, I hear news stories and read of studies in professional journals that continue to substantiate that both isolation (not having a lot of social contact with others) and loneliness (the feeling of lacking social connection) have been linked to declines in physical health.

A 2012 study found that 43% of older adults reported feeling lonely; over the next 6 years, they were more likely to lose physical abilities or die. Loneliness and isolation have also been linked to decreased immune function and greater risk of depression.

Older adults who live alone or have been bereaved are at particular risk, especially if health problems are interfering with their ability to get out and about. But even people who are in proximity to others —such as family caregivers or seniors residing in a facility — may suffer from feeling lonely.

Studies have found that certain psychotherapies — including mindfulness — can help reduce feelings of loneliness and even inflammation in the body. However another study found that isolation seems to be a stronger risk factor for premature death than loneliness, so it’s important to relieve social isolation as well.

As we expand CircleTalk and include more and more older adults in this social engagement program, we are pleased to see the benefits of genuine connection, person-to-person interaction, small community building and validation of a person’s life experiences in our regularly scheduled meetings. CircleTalk matters and can make the crucial difference between loneliness, isolation and happiness.

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