FCOA: Myths about Aging
What is Myth-Information?
Myth-Information is a widely held and/or promoted, but false, piece of information.
The topic for this month is Social Isolation & Loneliness.
Myth-Information #1 - The current generation of older people are more lonely than previous generations.
FACT – Older people today may not be any lonelier than their counterparts from previous generations – there just might be more of them. “We found no evidence that older adults have become any lonelier than those of a similar age were a decade before,” said Louise C. Hawkley, PhD, of NORC at the University of Chicago, lead author of one of the studies. “However, average reported loneliness begins to increase beyond age 75, and therefore, the total number of older adults who are lonely may increase once the baby boomers reach their late 70s and 80s.” “Our research suggests that older adults who remain in good health and maintain social relationships with a spouse, family or friends tend to be less lonely,” said Hawkley. Using studies going back to 1948, Christina Victor from Brunel University has shown that the proportion of older people experiencing chronic loneliness has remained steady for 70 years, with 6-13% saying they feel lonely all or most of the time. But it is true that the actual numbers of lonely people are rising simply because there are more people in the world.
Myth-Information #2 – Social isolation and loneliness are the same.
FACT – Social isolation means you do not have enough people to interact with, whereas loneliness is how you think about or perceive your situation. Someone who feels lonely may have family and friends nearby, but still experience feelings of loneliness. It is also important to note that loneliness is not the same as depression. The feeling of loneliness can be transient, in relation to life events, but it can also persist when declining physical and cognitive capacities prevent seniors from seizing opportunities to socialize. Social isolation and loneliness do not always go together. About 28 percent of older adults in the United States, or 13.8 million people, live alone, according to a report by the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but many of them are not lonely or socially isolated. At the same time, some people feel lonely despite being surrounded by family and friends.
Myth-Information #3 – Social Isolation and/or Loneliness have no impact on physical health.
FACT – Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. People who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, separation from friends or family, retirement, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation are at particular risk. Conversely, people who engage in meaningful, productive activities with others tend to live longer, boost their mood, and have a sense of purpose. These activities seem to help maintain their well-being and may improve their cognitive function, studies show.
All information is courtesy of FCOA