The holidays are a time of splendor for many, yet they can be an especially challenging occasion for seniors. While seasonal events often have a way of bringing people together, seniors who already feel socially isolated may have a hard time joining in and feeling at ease in group celebrations. Did you know that social isolation isn’t only unhealthy on a physical, emotional and cognitive level (those studies have been around for years!), but it’s financially unhealthy too!
In a recently released study by Stanford University and AARP, data revealed that 14% of older adults have poor social networks. These 4 million individuals also require over $1,600 more annually in medical care (or a total of $6.7 billion in Medicare dollars) compared to those with active social networks. Higher rates of illness (including depression & chronic conditions), increased entry into skilled nursing facilities and additional hospital costs for socially isolated seniors is not only an alarmingly heartbreaking reality, but a true reality check for public policy.
The added Medicare spending needed to provide for socially isolated individuals may finally be a legislative wake-up call that reducing social isolation and promoting healthy relationships is a worthwhile cause for individual well-being, senior quality of life AND wise use of Medicare dollars. The authors of the above-mentioned study are recommending that both public and private organizations develop and implement, screening tests and solutions for socially isolated older adults. Annual wellness visits for the population aged 65 and over should include a measure and action plan to assess their community and support systems.
While the total costs of social isolation are large, measurable and unfortunate – there are some simple solutions that we can all be a part of! In the holiday spirit of togetherness, make sure you consider your older relatives, aging neighbors and seniors in your community as you plan your festivities. What if we all invited two extra people for dinner in the aged 65+ population to our holiday meal – how many people could we help? The cost of caring for others is minimal … and the rewards pay big to your heart and soul when you see the smiles and joy of those whom might not have otherwise been included.
Whatever you do this holiday season, we encourage you to find one way to extend your holiday spirit into the life of one (or two!) people who really need it.
Bobbi Decker & Associates fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. For more information, please visit: http://portal.hud.gov/