We all know that social isolation by the elderly is one of our society’s biggest challenges, and the covid-19 did not help in this battle. Following a study from the University of Michigan in October 2018, 27% of adults between 50 and 80 reported feeling isolated from others. In March-June 2020, 56% of people felt isolated from others (University of Michigan, 2020).
Different factors can be the causes of this isolation. Sometimes, only one occurs, but they can also be multiple.
- Physical health issue: if suffering from mobility issues or other physical health problems, chronic illnesses or sensory impairments, elderly persons could meet difficulties in engaging socially or interacting with each other.
- Mobility difficulties: when you can’t leave the place you live in because you can’t drive (either you do not have a license or a car) or because public transports are not accessible, it is difficult to meet people for any social opportunity.
- Health conditions and cognitive decline: some elderly face at some point in their life chronic health conditions (cognitive decline or dementia). Those can impact social activities and lead to difficulties in remembering social interactions.
- Retirement: not working anymore can be a long-awaited moment for some, but finding activities and daily objectives can be challenging for others. Retired not only means you lose your marks with your daily habits, but you can also lose work contact. Even if they became friends with time, you will inevitably see them less often.
- Ageism: societal stereotypes toward ageing sometimes lead to exclusion and discrimination. Even without noticing it, people adapt their attitude to the person they are speaking to, and so do they with seniors. Infantilising the elderly is frequent, but it doesn’t help them feel included in society.
- Loss of independence: when elderly people lose the ability to perform daily tasks independently, they might feel like a burden on their close ones, leading to self-imposed isolation.
- Technology barriers: technology continually evolves with computers, smartphones or even your coffee machines. If they don’t stay up to date, people can feel left on the side. The elderly, significantly, didn’t grow up in a digital world as some of us did. It is easy to understand that without knowing how to use all those new tools, people could feel lost, blocked or rejected in this society where high tech is everywhere.
It is essential to address a multifaceted approach to these issues and support the elderly population to help combat isolation and promote their overall well-being. Encouraging regular social interactions, organising community events, providing transportation assistance, and promoting mental health awareness are some strategies to help mitigate isolation among the elderly.
The Silver Books project aims to engage the elderly in the digital world by following an online course on digital book creation, content creators and digital skills. With that new knowledge, we want to help seniors and people working with them fight some of the isolation causes.
Frutos, M. L., Cruzado, D. P., Lunsford, D., Orza, S. G., & Cantero-Téllez, R. (2023, February 26). Impact of social isolation due to covid-19 on daily life activities and independence of people over 65: A cross-sectional study. International journal of environmental research and public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10001756/
Piette, J., Solway, E., Singer, D., Kirch, M., Kullgren, J., Malani, P. (2020, September). Loneliness Among Older Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/162549