We are really in an unprecedented time with a lack of answers, certainty and control, and there is no end in sight.
With all the discussion and encouragement around “social distancing” for our physical health, it brings up a whole new array of potential mental health problems, especially for older adults.
The absence of social activity and connections can lead to a range of issues for older adults, according to Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. James followed 1,100 people for over 12 years and found the rate of cognitive decline was 70 percent lower in people who had frequent social engagements.
Social isolation is one major risk factor for anxiety and depression, and it can take a toll on someone’s mental health and in turn their physical health.
According to Brigham Young University professor, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, loneliness is more dangerous than obesity and as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Connecting with other people is considered a fundamental human need that is essential for overall wellbeing.
So, what do we do in a time like this where we are being forced to self-isolate?
The answer is simple, but the process may not be. We must find a way to remain socially connected while social distancing. Seniors are already socially vulnerable so now, more than ever, we must get creative in staying socially connected. Luckily, technology gives us many options.
“Staying engaged with others is important," said Dr. Roger Landry, president of Masterpiece Living. "I believe that online is a terrific way to stay engaged and build relationships. Social media can bring people together.”
Below is a list of things you can do to stay socially connected to friends, family and loved ones during this time:
It’s just as important to protect ourselves mentally as it is physically. We need to focus on maintaining social connections while reducing physical contact in order to stay healthy.
Uncertain times like these can fuel anxiety and depression which will only cause further mental and physical breakdowns. Instead of social distancing, let’s call it physical distancing and stay socially connected.
Editor's Note: Bhakti Gosalia is vice president of operations for Sun Health Communities, a division of Sun Health, a non-profit organization with more than 50 years serving the community’s health care needs.