Loneliness kills, and in fact it can shorten a lifespan up to 20 years – that’s more than obesity or smoking. Unfortunately Americans are growing increasingly more lonely year after year. Last year 61% of American said they felt lonely, up from 54% the previous year.
It’s no wonder – people are working more for less because wages have been stagnant for decades while the cost of living has steadily increased. Every human act is becoming too costly for most people unless they work two or three jobs, and they are derided for going out for avocado toast and a latte on the weekend with friends even though they haven’t been on vacation in years. For many of us, socialization is only occurring at work, and for retirees they often realize they haven’t had the opportunity to build friendships outside of work until after they retire and realize how lonely they are. As a result, seniors have the highest suicide rate of any age group at 18%. And now the pandemic has claimed still more opportunities for socialization.
Thanks to the pandemic many of us are feeling more lonely than ever, and this loneliness is impacting seniors more than anyone else. Typically they rely on places like church, clubs, and adult daycares for social interaction with one another, and these interactions are invaluable.
77% of Americans say they lack a social support system, and as these Americans get older they find they have no one to turn to for help with tasks, trustworthy advice, or with whom to share activities.
People who have chronic health conditions have a tougher time sustaining social interactions, and the pandemic has made this task sisyphean. Loneliness can increase the risk of certain diseases like heart disease and diabetes, and chronic conditions can in turn make socialization more difficult. It’s a vicious cycle.
Over time loneliness can increase inflammation and white blood cell counts, lowering immunity and increasing the potential for emotional troubles. For seniors loneliness can increase the risk of death by 14%.
For retirees, adult daycare and other organized senior activities can decrease this risk along with the risk for serious medical conditions and being hospitalized.
COVID-19 has made these services difficult to offer, however. The populations that depend on these services are also the ones most at risk for contracting and experiencing serious side effects from COVID-19, giving recipients and providers of these services considerable difficulty in deciding what’s worse.
Fortunately, some organizations are scrambling to offer adult daycare services on a remote, no contact basis. This includes things like well checks, meal and grocery deliveries, medication reminders, caregiver assistance, social teleconferencing, and more.
Providing these services is less costly than sending patients to nursing homes, which would put them at even greater risk. However many medical providers aren’t covering these services for their patients, which leads to a greater risk of loneliness-based complications down the road.
The pandemic has caused a lot of people to fall through the cracks, but adult daycare providers are doing their best to ensure seniors and people living with disabilities have their needs met. Learn more about adult daycare services in the age of pandemic from the infographic below.