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The importance of combating loneliness among older adults

You may have heard today about new UCSF research pointing to the importance of social interaction and fulfillment for older adults' health. In a study of 1,600 seniors, the 43 percent of participants who reported being lonely were more likely to die or suffer a decline in health over a six-year period than their non-lonely counterparts.

In a San Francisco Chronicle article on the study, Stanford geriatrist VJ Periyakoil, MD, commented on the issue of social isolation among seniors and the need to fix this problem:

[Periyakoil] said her patients often describe  feeling "out of sync" and disconnected from society - even if they're married or  living with family.

Couples who have been married for years may find themselves strangers as they  get older and don't have the shared interests of raising kids, she said.  Grandparents may feel unable to connect with both their children and their  grandchildren because of generational or lifestyle differences.

"The biggest thing I hear from my adult patients is, 'I don't want to bother  anyone,'" Periyakoil said. She recalled one patient who declined radiation therapy to treat his cancer because he didn't want his daughter to have to take  off work to drive him to his appointments.

"We need a societal hardware fix to make older adults feel a valuable part of  our society, which they are," Periyakoil said. "It's selfish too. All of us are going to get old. We have to take care of them and be mindful of their needs because someday we'll be on the receiving end."

Previously: Elderly adults turn to social media to stay connected, stave off loneliness, Examining the effect of spousal health in older couples, Can good friends help you live longer?, New research confirms connection between loneliness, poor health and Can you catch loneliness?
Photo by borya

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