Combatting Loneliness Essential to Senior Wellness
Feeling lonely is hazardous to our health.
Those of us who work in senior healthcare have been paying more attention to the effects of loneliness on older adults. We see firsthand how dangerous social isolation can be.
According to a 2015 study from Perspectives on Psychological Science, loneliness has the equivalent negative health impact on someone as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Recent data published in Modern Healthcare indicate that, "The problem is pervasive and can have a dire impact on health, with several studies linking spikes in mortality to a person's social isolation."
Throughout my 30-year career, as a primary care physician for older adults I have witnessed this. I have seen the struggle of my patients and their families when deaths of spouses, family and friends occur. The survivor is left feeling alone, isolated.
Fortunately, here at the Jewish Home, where for the past five years I've been the Chief Medical Officer of the Los Angeles Jewish Home (LAJH), we have solutions.
Social workers attend to residents who are going through a challenging life event and help guide them through the healing process. In addition, the Jewish Home provides spiritual and social support, nursing care and clinical services far beyond what is provided by government and private insurance. We are actively involved in the lives of our more than 1200 residents. We are here for them when they are celebrating a milestone or achievement, just as we are here for them when they are mourning a loss.
The Home's engaging, productive activities—such as knitting circles, karaoke sessions and exercise classes—are designed to enhance the well-being of our residents.
Most importantly to seniors' emotional health, those who live here forge strong friendships and spark romantic relationships.
When I meet with residents, I often hear the words, "My health has been wonderful since coming to the Home. For the first time in years, I feel good again!"
Yes, social isolation can have a dire impact on health and increase mortality risk. More importantly, our experience shows proactively addressing social isolation issues works. Doing so does much more than add years to life—it also adds life to years.
Dr. Noah Marco,
Jewish Home Chief Medical Officer