About 28 percent of America’s seniors live alone, and many experience social isolation—lack of regular contact with others. Unfortunately, studies by the National Center on Elder Abuse show a correlation between social isolation and elder abuse as well as a number of health issues, including poor diet, dementia, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, arthritis and depression.
Florida’s 11 Area Agencies on Aging urge local residents to take some time to connect with a senior during the holiday season – and beyond if possible.
“During the holidays, we usually reconnect with friends, family, and neighbors,” explains Sherry Young, health and wellness coordinator at the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida. “But for seniors living in social isolation, the holidays can be incredibly lonely. That comes with a lot of risk for them.”
Maintaining connections with our senior loved ones and making new connections with seniors can help to ensure their well-being and protect them from abuse.
Approximately one in ten adults age 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Isolated seniors are not only more likely to fall victim to abuse, but abused
seniors are also more likely to be isolated from others, as their abusers attempt to hide the mistreatment.
Self-neglect is closely related to elder abuse, and the AARP estimates that as many as half of the cases reported to Adult Protective Services are related to self-neglect. Isolated seniors may stop maintaining personal hygiene, cease managing their finances, or even avoid seeking medical attention because they are unwilling or unable to do so on their own.
When visiting with seniors this holiday season, the Area Agencies on Aging encourage friends and relatives to be conscious of the risk factors for social isolation. These include loneliness, chronic health problems, lack of transportation, recent changes in residence, and critical life transitions (such as retirement or the loss of a partner). Seniors age 80 or
over are particularly susceptible to social isolation.
People with concerns about an isolated senior are encouraged to call Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs Helpline at 1-800-96 ELDER (1-800-963-5337). The department partners with the 11 Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state. Helpline specialists can provide information about meal programs, volunteer opportunities, fitness classes, and services that provide home care for seniors. The Helpline can also screen adults 60 and over for government-funded services.
Anyone who suspects elder abuse or self-neglect is urged to call the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Florida Abuse Hotline at 800-962-2873 (800-96-ABUSE).
Source: Area on Aging for Southwest Florida