Losing one’s independence is something no one really wants, even senior citizens. AARP reports that about 90% of senior people 65 years and above prefer not to move from their current home address as they grow older. What this means is that they usually end up living alone.
There are about 11.3 million citizens living alone within the country. Senior citizens often want to live independently in familiar surroundings during their post-retirement years which is good emotionally. However, while living alone might have its perks, there are many potential dangers to watch out for.
The administration of Aging released a report stating that around 30% of all senior adults live at home, alone. This figure made for even grimmer reading when it was followed by a report that around half of the elderly population needs assisted living or long-term care. This simply means that we have a lot of seniors who need help but are not getting it.
Very many seniors need help with daily living activities like bathing, dressing and cooking. And although they prefer living alone, it is usually because of their financial capacity rather than a sense of independence.
The first issue associated with elders living alone is social isolation. Humans are social creatures and even the most reserved of us requires some social interaction to maintain mental and physical well-being. Social isolation is a challenge that can reduce the lifespan of a person because of the physical and health issues it breeds. It increases the risks of high blood pressure, infections, heart disease and declined cognitive ability.
A lot of people mistake loneliness for social isolation, they are two quite dissimilar things. Loneliness is only a symptom of social isolation. A person can still suffer the risks of social isolation even if they don’t feel lonely. Social isolation happens when you don’t feel like an active part of a community of people.
Heightened chances of depression and anxiety are follow up problems that can result from social isolation. Although they are two different problems, they usually show up together. Depression usually is usually identified by a general loss of interest, appetite, motivation, energy and concentration. It is also very possible for a clinically depressed person to go on unnoticed with many dismissing it as simply being ‘more reserved than usual’.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is as a result of feeling insecure, this can easily degenerate to heart palpitations, shortness of breath, muscle tension and even insomnia if one is socially isolated. The lack of constant communication with other people often amounts to the person being at a higher risk of anxiety and depression.
Asides causing anxiety and depression, social isolation can easily cause it to degenerate since there is no one to catch the early signs. Anxiety and depression can quickly degenerate to mental issues like Alzheimer’s and dementia to list a few if left untreated. Amazingly, about 70% of the seniors that suffer from dementia and other similar conditions live in communities either on their own or with their families.
Increased risk of accidents is also a potential downside of living alone. A good percentage of accidents among seniors happen within the confines of their own homes because of the many hazards in the house and poor eyesight which is common among them. As they age, people’s bones become brittle and this makes fall hazards particularly dangerous for seniors living alone. Even if the fall is not life-threatening, some of them might need help getting back up. Getting any kind of help when living alone is difficult and may take anything from hours to days within which the situation may have worsened.
Lack of help is also a danger for people living alone. As mentioned earlier, one may need help getting back up after a fall and may find it difficult to get. However, this is not the only type of help required for seniors.
Medication is a major area in which seniors need help too. It is no secret that old age often comes with reduced cognitive functions and in some cases, a mild case of dementia. It is very important that seniors get all the assistance they can as regards keeping up with their medications.
It is a rather common occurrence for most seniors to forget to take their medications, this can pose quite a problem if they are battling illnesses like high blood pressure. While it may not seem like much, a missed dose here and another there may result in complications in the not too distant future.
What may cause more of an immediate problem is an accidental overdose. As one goes into their senior years, the tendency to be reliant on drugs is at an all-time high. Most seniors take pills quite often, making it a normal, regular activity. If however, one forgets they have taken their drugs and takes another dose, an overdose problem may arise. This can even be compounded is the person takes multiple doses within a very short timeframe. This can otherwise be avoided is there is someone else in charge of administering the drugs.
Seniors living alone may also run into issues with malnutrition. This is very possible especially if the person was never the one responsible for making dietary plans. This can lead to a senior eating the easiest things they can get regardless of the fact that fast foods are not really healthy and may cause them problems like increased cholesterol levels or high blood sugars.
As one gets older, previously natural activities can become very laborious to do. Seniors may have a lot of issues with cleaning up their immediate environment, leading to untidiness and exposing them to health hazards.
One final issue that may affect seniors living alone is the pile up of debt. Due to reduced cognitive function and other mental issues, a senior might forget to pay their bills and this could lead to a pile up with some of them accruing further interests.