Happy Valentine's Day!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to let the special people in our lives know that we care whether it is with candy and flowers, a handmade card, or a simple declaration of “Happy Valentine’s Day”! It makes us feel good to love and be loved.
But what about those who find themselves alone on a special day like Valentine’s Day (and on not-so-special ordinary days)?
Social isolation is a real and growing problem among older adults in the United States.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census data, approximately 28% of older adults live alone. However, it is not simply living alone that makes a person feel isolated. AARP Foundation defines social isolation as the experience of diminished social connectedness stemming from a process whereby the impact of risk factors outweighs the impact of any existing protective factors.
A shrinking social network can be the result of exiting the work force, the death of a spouse or close friend, diminished mobility, financial instability, geographic location, language barriers, and other factors. In addition to changes in the number of social connections that a person has as they age, an individual may also experience a decline in the quality of their remaining relationships.
There are particular subgroups of the aging community who are particularly vulnerable to social isolation.
For example, according to SAGE, LGBT older adults are more likely to live alone and have weaker support networks. Members of the LGBT community are also more likely to be disabled, suffer from economic insecurity, not have children, feel estranged from family members, and struggle with issues related to discrimination, all of which contribute to their social isolation.
Similarly, older adults who speak a language other than English often feel isolated from their broader community and are disconnected from the supports available from that community.
The physical and mental health repercussions related to social isolation can be significant for older adults.
As described by Cornwell and Waite, social isolation has been connected to increased rates of mortality, morbidity, infection, and cognitive decline. Isolation has also been associated with higher rates of re-hospitalization.
So, what can you do to make a senior feel less isolated and more connected to a community that cares about them? How can you spread some Valentine’s Day love?
You can start by getting involved with H.O.M.E.!
Our programs combat social isolation by offering communal intergenerational living experiences that allow residents to develop supportive social connections. Our shopping bus, moving assistance, and home upkeep and repair programs provide services, with a personal touch, to those who may not have anyone else in their social network to help them. Our volunteers connect with our clients while preparing a meal, painting a room, or making a home weather-proof.
Please donate to our efforts or join us as a volunteer. Today, share some love and be the Valentine of an older adult.
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