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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

Combatting the Risks of Social Isolation

by Carly Hanney – Assistant Director, The Landing

Social isolation is a phenomenon that some of us may have experienced for the first time during the various stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether we needed to quarantine due to illness, or just pulled back on our normal social activities out of caution. For many of our nation’s seniors, however, social isolation is not new, and not limited to the pandemic. In fact, according to a study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), almost a quarter of adults over 65 are considered to be socially isolated. What effect does long term social isolation have on older adults? You might be surprised to learn just how significantly it can impact overall health and wellbeing.

According to the CDC, social isolation is associated with the following health risks:

• 50% increased risk of dementia.

• 28% increased risk of heart disease.

• 32% increased risk of stroke.

• Higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

• Greater risk of premature death from all causes, as much as or potentially even more than smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.

So, how does one go about combatting these risks? Consider routine interactions, such as a shared greeting with your mail carrier, a quick conversation with the grocery store clerk, or a chat with a neighbor as you shovel your sidewalk. Often, we overlook the significance of these types of connections; surely, they cannot be as important as close relationships – right?

Susan Pinker, Developmental Psychologist, shares her research in her TED Talk about what she calls ‘social integration’, the amount you interact with people as you move through your day. As Pinker puts it, “Do you talk to the postman? Do you talk to the woman who walks by your house every day with her dog? Do you play bridge or poker, have a book club? Those interactions are one of the strongest predictors of how long you'll live“

If you read this and think perhaps you could increase your level of social integration, The Landing offers a safe place to grow closer to your 55-plus community. You will feel comfortable, accepted and welcomed by friends, members and staff, no matter your life story or journey. Whether you prefer to connect over a friendly card game, or by learning a new art form, or just by enjoying a cup of coffee, you will find it at The Landing. Call 715-257-6122 today to learn more about options for membership – we would love to see you!

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