Loneliness and isolation have always been linked to serious health concerns.
Not only does loneliness lead to feelings of disaffection and isolation, but it can also affect our memories. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more isolated we can become. Seniors are at higher risk for loneliness and isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.
This loneliness and isolation affect memory retention in very specific ways, such as:
Like physical muscles, our brains often operate on a “use it or lose it” paradigm. Studies show that those who spend time isolated and lonely demonstrate increased memory decline. The more extended the isolation, the sharper the decline. Over time, the cumulative effects can become profound.
Slower Processing Speeds
While loneliness can be associated with overall cognitive decline, this dynamic often manifests itself as a slower overall speed in taking in and processing new information. Those of us who spend time alone and isolated quickly become overwhelmed when faced with new information or questions, responding slowly to stimulating environments, if at all.
Increased Risks of Developing Dementia
Loneliness has long been associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. Although the extent of the association remains unclear, there is enough overlap to raise cause for concern.
How Seniors Can Alleviate Loneliness and isolation
Staving off loneliness and isolation can have an enormous positive impact on memory as well as overall health and well-being at any age. Here are a few tried and true methods we suggest:
Establish and keep daily routines
Routines help us manage tasks and maintain a consistent way of life, particularly in independent living situations. A routine also takes the stress out of daily decision-making, freeing up cognitive energy to focus elsewhere. Most importantly, make sure the routine involves interacting with other people!
Build routines around social engagements
We need to engage with others daily. From video chats to in-person visits to getting out of the house (when possible), each engagement gives you something to look forward to and gives increased opportunities to hold onto mental acuity.
Engage in brain-stimulating activities alongside other people
From playing games to making crafts to reading and writing letters, activities that keep us thinking can help keep us sharp. Doing these activities with others makes them that much more effective.
Embrace Community Living
The good news is that community living can make a difference in the lives of those who live alone and feel isolated. Here at The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, we strive to maintain a community where our residents can enjoy the friendships and support of peers, be social, continue to thrive, and have the care and support they need.