Loneliness Happens, and It’s Bad for Seniors’ Health

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 26 June 2012

A recent article from the Assisted Living Federation of America shared the results of a new survey on loneliness in seniors. The study, which came out of the University of California, San Francisco, found that within a 6-year period, 22.8 percent of seniors (average age: 71) who reported loneliness or feelings of isolation had passed away, and 24.8% experienced significant functional declines. In comparison with the numbers of those who were “socially satisfied,” the numbers are striking: only 14.2% of seniors passed away in the 6-year period, and 12.5% experienced a decline in function.

Social and family connections are extremely important in preventing these adverse outcomes. It’s vital that seniors in assisted living maintain these connections too; just because they are living in a community setting does not mean that loneliness is not a possibility. Visitors of all ages — children, young adults, peers, and even furry ones (a family pet, perhaps) — are of great encouragement and support to seniors receiving home care services or living in a residential care setting like assisted living. Family members and friends should call often and keep in touch consistently to ensure that loved ones are not suffering from loneliness or depression.

Not sure what to do when you visit? Read our posts on the subject and get ideas here.


There are 6 Comments about this post

  1. Roland says,

    Loneliness is definitely a major issue that older people face. Seniors who live alone, in communities, assisted living, or even nursing homes are susceptible to feeling lonely. It is really hard to tell apart those seniors who enjoy being by themselves mostly and those who actually do enjoy being around people quite often. Eric Klinenberg is an esteemed author in the senior citizen realm as has done extensive research on this exact subject. I have read interviews with elder people who really enjoy their isolation because they can do things when they want and how they want. They enjoy their routines and the calmness. On the other hand there have been interviewees who greatly express their desire to be around people all the time. Wanting to be alone is perfectly fine. Actually, my grandmother is kind of like that. She enjoys her peace, routine, and simplicity. She does enjoy seeing us (her family) but she has told us many times that she enjoys living alone because she feels that she has complete control at all times. We did end up getting her a personal emergency response system since she lives alone which she was fine with. We have tried to get her to live with one of us but she won’t go for it. I just hope she is telling the truth and is actually content on her own and not secretly feeling lonely inside. I try and visit her as often as I can and she seems to enjoy that. I guess only time will tell but until then I will continue to try and make the best of every moment and definitely keep communicating with her about certain things such as this. Thanks for the great post Michelle! :)


    on 27 June 2012 / 1:53 AM

  2. Absolutely, Roland. It is a fine line between those who enjoy being alone and those who are truly lonely. Klinenberg’s work sounds fascinating. Glad to know there are people working on the issue too. I can see how many prefer the simplicity, control and routine. That makes sense to someone like me, who enjoys those things too. But it is good to be around people from time to time. A PERS is a great idea too, and it’s good that you visit often. Sounds like you’re doing things right, but I understand your concern that she may be secretly feeling lonely. We probably all feel that way at some points in our lives though, don’t you think? Even when we’re around people? It’s an interesting topic indeed. Glad you liked the post, and thanks so much for your thoughtful comments!


    on 28 June 2012 / 11:16 AM

  3. AHJ is seeking partners in the health field. AHJ is a health care site with a significant library of high quality medicine videos. We are looking for site owners who may be interested in writing content to our web site. Please message us at our contact page on our website.


    on 31 January 2013 / 5:22 AM

  4. Will do. Thanks!


    on 31 January 2013 / 11:48 AM

  5. Rob says,

    It’s true that more and more seniors are feeling isolated and cut off from society. While some people may like being alone, I would imagine that most elderly people fear feeling isolated. I’m not say that this is the answer, as nothing beats one-to-one physical interaction, but social networks like Facebook and services like Skype can really make a difference to the well-being and mental outlook of seniors suffering from loneliness…


    on 04 July 2014 / 9:15 AM

  6. Rob, great points. Loneliness and isolation may be feared by some seniors, even though who welcome solitude. Social networks can definitely fill the gaps! Thanks for your comment & for stopping by the blog.


    on 07 July 2014 / 2:54 PM


Do you have something to say?