7 factors that could lead to social isolation

Winter can be an especially solitary time for some seniors, who may find they are spending more time alone in their homes because of bad weather or lack of transportation.

Canadian research shows that isolation isn’t just confined to the winter months for older adults: a recent federal government profile of social isolation estimated that 30 per cent of seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated.* A report from the International Federation of Ageing also identified social isolation as one of the top issues facing Canada’s aging population.*

What does it mean to be socially isolated?

While researchers give us differing versions of a complex term, it’s generally agreed to include a low number and quality of contact with others, as well as a lack of rewarding relationships. It’s different from loneliness, which subjectively depends upon an individual’s reaction to their environment and relationships.*

Research shows that seniors who feel isolated can experience a range of concerning health issues, including a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression and cognitive decline.*

Who is at risk of social isolation?

The National Seniors Council identifies factors that may place you or your senior loved one at risk of social isolation and loneliness. Here are some of the leading causes:

  1. Living alone
  2. Being age 80 or older
  3. Having a compromised health status or multiple health problems
  4. Having no children or contact with family
  5. Lacking access to transportation
  6. Living with low income
  7. Experiencing life transitions, such as retirement, the death of a spouse, or loss of a driver’s license*

The social benefits of retirement living

If you or a loved one are looking for a more active social life in your retirement years, you may consider the social benefits that come with choosing to live in a community of peers in a retirement residence. It used to be that health or mobility issues prompted a move to a retirement community, but a growing number of older adults recognize that this next chapter in their lives will give them numerous opportunities for built-in—and highly satisfying—social relationships.

No longer at the mercy of transportation, weather and security worries, seniors can connect with others through leisure experiences, clubs, fitness classes and outings, or over a good meal, a coffee or a glass of wine. Like shoveling snow or uncertainties about night driving, social isolation becomes a distant memory in the comfort of a retirement home.

Do you think a loved one may benefit from the enriched social life in a retirement residence? Take our Is it Time? Questionnaire to learn more!

The following sources provided a reference for this blog:

1. Dr. Penny MacCourt for the Canadian Forum of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers. “Social Isolation of Seniors, Volume 1, Understanding the issues and finding solutions,” (date modified 2017-02-23),online:https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/partners/seniors-forum/social-isolation-toolkit-vol1.html

2. International Federation on Ageing. “Current and Emerging Issues Facing Older Canadians,” (March 2012), online: https://ifa.ngo/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/current-and-emerging-issues-facing-older-canadians-final-report-30-march-2012.pdf

3. National Seniors Council. “Who’s at risk and what can be done about it? A review of the literature on the social isolation of different groups of seniors,” (February 2017), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/national-seniors-council/programs/publications-reports/2017/review-social-isolation-seniors.html#h2.3-h3.1

4. National Institute on Aging. “Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks,” (April 23, 2019), online: https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks

5. National Seniors Council. “Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors 2013-2014,” (October 2014), online:https://www.canada.ca/en/national-seniors-council/programs/publications-reports/2014/social-isolation-seniors/page05.html#h2.2

6. United Way Canada. 211 website, online: www.211.ca