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Displaying items by tag: senior loneliness

Widespread loneliness in the U.S. poses health risks as deadly as smoking, according to new information from the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. According to the report, 50% of U.S. adults are experiencing loneliness that interferes with or otherwise affects their wellbeing. The ill-effects of loneliness can be even more detrimental for older adults.

The social and emotional health effects of loneliness have been well documented. These effects were exacerbated during the isolation periods during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, new information shows the ill-effects of loneliness carry over to a person’s physical health.

According to the Surgeon General’s report, the “epidemic of loneliness threatens public health”:

  • Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by nearly 30%.
  • People with poor social relationships have a 32% higher risk of stroke and 29% higher risk of heart disease.
  • Loneliness increases a person’s risk for anxiety, depression, and dementia. Individuals struggling with these conditions tend to be less physically active, thereby affecting their physical health.
  • Loneliness can increase risk for accidents and even suicide.

Murthy’s report indicated the increased risk of premature death associated with social disconnection is comparable to smoking. However, the report did not provide any data that illustrates how many people die directly from loneliness or isolation.  

Loneliness Prevalent Among Elderly

Among older adults over age 60, 50% are at risk of social isolation and one-third will experience some degree of loneliness in later life. Older adults who self-isolate or who experience loneliness as a result of loss of significant relationships have a heightened risk to their mental and physical health. 

Social circles among the elderly tend to shrink due to loss of functional abilities, illness, and death of significant friends and partners. Therefore, it is imperative for older adults to have healthy outlets for connecting with others and maintaining a sense of meaning and purpose for their lives. 

Helpful Tips to Reduce Loneliness Among Older Adults

Stay Active. Whether it’s a walking buddy or group, participating in aqua-exercise classes, or trying chair yoga, physical movement is as good for the mind as it is for the body. For older adults, appropriate intensity exercise boosts mood, strengthens the mind-body connection, and keeps the body physically strong. Physical activity with a partner or group reduces social isolation and reduces risk for mental distress and depression.

Keep Good Company. The old saying is ‘misery loves company’, but the same can be said of positivity! It’s well-known that laughter is good medicine. Choose to spend time with others who make you laugh or whom you make laugh. For those who are home-bound, be sure they have frequent visitors—or consider the benefits of animatronic pet therapy to help an older adult cope with loneliness.

Keep the Mind Sharp. Engage in intellectual activities with others who share the same interest such as chess club, book club, arts and crafts club, board game groups, maybe something more intellectual. Not sure about your interests…be adventurous, try something new… it’s a great way to find a new hobby and new friends! 

Do Good For Others. Helping others through volunteer work is a great way to build and maintain social connections. Plus, doing good for others through volunteerism has lasting beneficial effects on health and wellbeing for older adults. Older adults who volunteer experience better physical health, less depression and anxiety, and have a brighter outlook and sense of purpose for their life.

Senior Living Programs to Reduce Loneliness

Every resident at Everbrook Senior Living Communities has access to the Wellness 4 Later Life programming, which helps older adults maintain good health, independence, connection with like-minded others. Our holistic approach is personalized to the needs of each resident to best support their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. From individualized movement and fitness programs to movie nights and special interest clubs, our residents are inspired as they engage in activities that support living, learning, and laughing throughout the golden years.

We invite you to come see for yourself all that Everbrook Senior Living has to offer. Call today to schedule a tour.    

Further Reading

Healthy Intimacy is Important for Older Adult Wellbeing. https://everbrookseniorliving.com/blog/itemlist/tag/senior%20friendships 

Older Adult ‘Holiday Blues versus Depression: What’s the Difference? https://everbrookseniorliving.com/blog/item/22-is-your-elder-family-member-experiencing-more-than-the-holiday-blues 

Published in News

A therapeutic innovation launched during the COVID-19 pandemic is making its way into mainstream care of older adults who live alone and those who have dementia. Lifelike robotic cats and dogs are an effective way to help seniors enhance social interaction, improve symptoms of depression, and reduce feelings of loneliness. These robotic pets can even be purchased by family members to gift to a loved one – perfect for the holiday season.

Loneliness Increases among Older Adults in Winter Months

Feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation can increase dramatically during the winter months, particularly around the holiday season. Among older adults, these feelings can become overwhelming – worsening their symptoms and increasing risk for accidents and even suicide. Research shows that something as simple as a lifelike pet cat or dog can significantly improve wellbeing for older adults, including those with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. 

Therapeutic Animatronic Dog or Cat Enhances Social-Emotional Wellbeing for Seniors

The positive impact of these therapeutic robotic pets include improved mood and affect, better communication and meaningful social interaction, including having a sense of being needed by the companion robot pet. 

Additional positive emotions experienced when interacting with a therapeutic robotic pet include:

  • Joy
  • Surprise
  • Empathy
  • Gentleness
  • Connection 

Older adults who have access to a robotic pet may also have better outcomes during a hospitalization, including less delirium, loneliness, fewer falls, and reduced need for a 1:1 companion. Some studies point to older adults with a robotic pet having enhanced cognitive function, less agitation, and less anxiety; although more research is needed in these areas.

Animatronic Therapeutic Pets Ideal for Seniors in Many Living Arranagements 

Initially launched in the spring of 2020, in a partnership between Ageless Innovation and the Department of Elder Affairs in Florida (among other states) the program provided lifelike Joy for All Companion Pets® as a means to facilitate and enhance interaction between an older adult and their caregivers and family members. Since the end of the pandemic, the therapeutic robotic pets have been used in a variety of settings including senior centers, hospitals, nursing homes, memory care facilities, and senior living communities.  

Mood Enhancing Behaviors for Older Adults with a Therapeutic Robotic Pet

Some of the mood enhancing interactions that have been observed between seniors and their therapeutic robot pets include:

  • Cuddling
  • Grooming
  • Petting
  • Sleeping with the pet
  • Naming the pet
  • Taking the pet with them on outings
  • Playing
  • Gathering in a communal area to talk to others about their “pet”
  • Intergenerational connection between an elder and a young child

Features of the Robotic “Thera-Pet”

The robotic pet cat or dog (and now birds are available) has motion sensors in the head, cheek, back, tummy and other areas so the animatronic can respond to petting. Each also has sound effects (purrs, cries, barks), which can be turned off for an elder with audio sensitivity. The fur is very soft and inspired by the texture of real animal coats. The “pets” can mimic a “nuzzling” action, can detect light in the room and respond to it with vocalizations, can bark and purr depending on movement and room setting. The robotic pets come in a variety of colors, too.

To discuss incorporating a Joy For All Companion Pet into the care plan for your loved one, please inquire with your health care provider. If your loved one is a resident at one of the Everbrook Senior Living Communities, please inquire with our Wellness staff. If your loved one is not a resident at one of our beautiful communities schedule a visit today.   


Florida Department of Elder Affairs

Hudson J, Ungar R, Albright L, Tkatch R, Schaeffer J, Wicker ER. Robotic Pet Use Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020 Oct 16;75(9):2018-2028. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbaa119. PMID: 32789476; PMCID: PMC7566965.

Koh WQ, Ang FXH, Casey D. Impacts of Low-cost Robotic Pets for Older Adults and People With Dementia: Scoping Review. JMIR Rehabil Assist Technol. 2021 Feb 12;8(1):e25340. doi: 10.2196/25340. PMID: 33497349; PMCID: PMC8082946.

Ihamäki P, Heljakka K. Robot Pets as "Serious Toys"- Activating Social and Emotional Experiences of Elderly People. Inf Syst Front. 2021 Aug 14:1-15. doi: 10.1007/s10796-021-10175-z. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34413702; PMCID: PMC8364409. 

Petersen S, Houston S, Qin H, Tague C, Studley J. The Utilization of Robotic Pets in Dementia Care. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;55(2):569-574. doi: 10.3233/JAD-160703. PMID: 27716673; PMCID: PMC5181659.

Published in Information

The outbreak of COVID-19 or Coronavirus has spread fear much more virulently than the disease itself although older adults being at high risk of mortality from coronavirus certainly have much to fear. Self-isolation as a method to reduce transmission risk may not be an optimal response to the coronavirus threat for very old adults because social isolation and loneliness have been shown to be detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of seniors. Isolating seniors amid such high tension can only serve to heighten the risk to their mental and physical health. Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent among the elderly because their social networks tend to shrink in later life due to losses of friends, family or from age related functional loss. As whole communities retreat into isolation to ease concerns about acquiring coronavirus, the vulnerable elderly living in near isolation will be forced to deal with fears of dying or media reports of impending doom all alone. What an alarming development!

All gatekeepers to the elderly should increase urgency to help seniors stay connected socially during the coronavirus crisis. What seniors in later life need more than ever are peers sharing similar feelings of distress about coronavirus who can band together and help each other through this most difficult period. Gatekeepers to the elderly are reminded that social isolation and loneliness though not the same, are widely recognized among health experts as a cause of poorer health among the elderly. Social isolation is measured objectively by the number of contacts we have which can drop sharply as we age.1 Loneliness is measured subjectively as the difference between one’s desired and achieved levels of social connectedness which can increase as we age.2

Published in Information
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