Although I have been researching loneliness among older adults for some time now, the ubiquity of this issue still astonishes me.
Lately, a study titled: “Loneliness Linked to Serious Health Problems and Death Among Elderly” got my attention. From the University of California at San Francisco, it made many familiar points; the astoundingly high rate of loneliness among older adults (43% by their estimates), and the elevated rate of chronic health issues (59%) and death (45%) among those who professed to being lonely.
The study also touched on some very concerning numbers. One, that the next generation of people to reach 65 years old people is the largest in history. The number of people in that demographic is expected to double, from 39.6 million people to as many as 88.5 million in the next 30 years. If we project the current estimate of loneliness (43% from this study) to that figure, 38 million people will be living in loneliness by that 2050. That number of people amounts to 96% of the current population of people 65 and older, and equals the current population of California. Not that any convincing is needed to prove that 38,000,000 is a large number, let’s hope those comparisons add some perspective.
Another troubling result of this study relates to the living situation of those who proclaimed to be lonely. It found that of the 43% of lonely seniors, less than half of those (41%) lived alone. What this says to me is one thing: the current system is not working! Our goal is to give older adults a comfortable and enriching place to age, and yet loneliness pervades in this setting with alarming prevalence.
I think about what this means for my generation, the baby boomers who will make up the majority of that 88.5 million mentioned earlier. Something has to change. At CircleTalk, we believe the key to change is Community. Based upon the numbers presented in this study, this issue will be challenging to tackle, but we continue our mission to chip away at this loneliness epidemic nonetheless.
On June 16th, CircleTalk will be offering a training to prepare Circletalk Leaders to disrupt this epidemic of loneliness for older adults. Creating more connection, belonging and community; join us!