For some, the winter months are a time to slow down and spend more time at home. However, for many older adults, the lack of social interaction during the winter months can lead to isolation, loneliness and health issues that can affect their overall wellbeing.
We often think of the elderly as residing with family, in a senior living community, or other shared housing situations, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the probability of living alone increases with age. For women, the likelihood of living alone at ages 65–74 is 32% and increases to 57% for those aged 85 and older. Beyond that the centenarians, seniors who are 100 or older, the number is astonishingly high with roughly one-third of them living alone.
The CDC states that the number of deaths is higher in the winter months than any other season, especially among our seniors over 80. As this group of older adults is getting larger, more deaths are being recorded during this time of year. This is especially prevalent for our seniors who have pre-existing health conditions. Another large factor is the flu, with 50–70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and 70–90% of seasonal flu-related deaths occurring in those 65 or older each year. Because of this, we see many of our seniors with increased anxiety due to fear of becoming sick which results in isolation to avoid encountering anyone that may be sick.
How can we help our patients stay active?
- Talk about the risk factors
- Remind them of the importance in attending groups
- Talk about proper hand hygiene and ways to help avoid sickness without isolating
- Create a plan for bad weather, sickness and during the holidays
How are we helping?
- We are doing check-ins with our patients during severe weather
- We are monitoring the emotional wellbeing of our patients and monitoring the physical health by checking vitals each group day
- We are contacting the patient’s physician if we identify any concerns
- Encouraging group attendance
How can we help identify older adults at risk?
- Talk to physicians and medical staff about identifying patients at risk
- Talk with hospital departments about how to identify family, friends, neighbors, and patients at risk
- Speak with long term care facilities, assisted livings, home health and health departments about how to identify seniors at risk
- Speak at senior centers, civic organizations, police departments and other speaking opportunities about risk factors during the winter months
Author Ken Poirot writes, “No one cares until someone cares, be that one!” Such a simple quote, yet so powerful. Let’s be the one to find the lonely, let’s be the one to help bring the quality of life back into someone’s life, let’s be the one not to give up, let’s be the one to show our seniors they are seen, they are heard, and they are not forgotten. BE THAT ONE!