Is It Safe For Senior Citizens to live alone?
About 27 percent of older adults 65 and older live alone according to Pew Research. But is it safe? Is it born out of preference or necessity?
The answer to the question Is it safe for senior citizens to be living alone? is both yes and no! The real answer is that it depends. Many of the stereotypical images of an aging senior sitting alone in a dark room wishing for something to do or somewhere to go are just not accurate. While it may be accurate for some, there are many, many seniors whose lives do not even remotely resemble that image. Obviously, it is a difficult decision to make!
Why are more Seniors living alone?
Seniors are living longer and maintaining their health longer. As a result, older adults are staying independent longer. Seniors enjoy their freedom. Family dynamics have also changed. The time of the Waltons has passed. Whether it is good or bad, society is seeing far fewer multi-generational households. According to the Visiting Angels organization, seniors vastly prefer aging in place to facility care even when physical or cognitive decline makes it difficult. By the way, the buzz word currently in use is aging in place. It sounds better than living alone, doesn’t it?
What are the benefits of a senior living alone?
The first question to ask is What are the benefits of living alone? The list of benefits is long but not as long as the list of risks. Seniors and their families need to weigh the pros and cons of living alone carefully. The five reasons most mentioned by seniors, families, and caregivers are:
- More comfortable and familiar: Aging in place allows an aging senior to stay in familiar surroundings with familiar furniture, familiar doors and windows, and even familiar dishes. A familiar neighborhood is a great plus, too. Comfortable and familiar are very good reasons to age in place.
- More independence: Aging in place seniors can maintain a greater degree of personal independence. They are able to live their lives as they see fit, and they enjoy a sense of dignity unavailable to many elderly adults.
- Closer to friends and family: Aging in place, meanwhile, allows older adults to stay in a familiar and highly valued space. This is a critical and underrated factor in seniors’ quality of life.
- Safer: Especially in the age of Covid-19, it can be safer to age in place. It insulates them from the bacterial and viral risks found in senior living facilities, reducing their chance of contracting a serious illness. Aging in place tends to improve seniors’ quality of life, which improves their physical health.
- More cost-effective: The reality is that getting older just costs more money! As our mental and physical abilities decline, we are going to need help whether we age in place or choose to live in an assisted care facility or nursing home. Costs of aging in place can include the cost of home modifications and the cost of in-home help.
What are the risks of living alone for seniors?
Make no mistake, aging in place can be a risky business.
- Isolation: The biggest risk of living alone is a profound sense of isolation. A study of over 6,500 elderly people by University College London suggests that social isolation significantly reduces your lifespan, posing both mental and physical health issues.
- Depression: Depression can be a symptom of social isolation, but you don’t have to be socially isolated to suffer from it. And depression isn’t just another word for feeling sad. Sadness often has nothing to do with it. In fact, it presents itself as a general loss of interest, concentration, energy, appetite, and motivations.
- Poverty: Elderly people who live alone are far more likely to be live below the poverty level and struggle with paying bills. Sometimes this is out of necessity. Not everyone is able to retire with sufficient savings. However, some elderly people live in poverty because they don’t know how to manage their retirement savings properly.
- Fall hazards: Your risk of falling and experiencing a traumatic injury increases dramatically after the age of 65. Elderly falls are one of the leading causes of death and morbidity among the elderly.
- Medication management and safety: Managing medication can be challenging for older adults. Whether it is over-medication or under-medication, the consequences can be significant. Individuals who are taking medications at home should ensure they are following the medication safety tips for seniors recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Malnutrition: Elderly people who live alone are at a much higher risk for malnutrition, which can be a symptom of depression, anxiety, poverty, and more. Many just don’t bother to eat. However, malnutrition can also simply be the result of basic nutritional ignorance.
- Housekeeping: Perhaps a senior is depressed and unmotivated. Perhaps a senior is physically unable to keep up with your house and yard. That is to be expected as they age. But maintaining basic housekeeping is another risk of social isolation with the elderly. The beloved house might be too much for a senior aging in place to keep up with on their own. That is especially true if a senior has a yard to maintain.
What can a senior do to stay safe while aging in place?
- Medical alert: A medic alert or similar device is mandatory for a senior aging in place.
- Home modifications: When an individual is considering whether or not they are able to remain in their own home due to its functionality, making some of these home modifications have been shown to enable a senior to live at home longer. Many of these modifications will also enable caregivers to provide care more easily.
What can I do to fight isolation?
Since isolation is perhaps the biggest overall risk for a senior aging in place, it is very important to be proactive about dealing with isolation. What that means is that an aging in place senior, their family, and any care providers necessary, make specific plans for ongoing, consistent socialization. The following ideas represent a starting place and are by no means all-inclusive.
- Get involved: It doesn’t really matter how. A church, senior center, book club, or card club will all fill the bill.
- Build a close circle of friends: The great thing about socializing is that it leads to new friends. With new friends, an aging in place senior will be able to look forward to new experiences and activities rather than looking back and dwelling on what has been lost.
- Check-in often: Checking in goes both ways! Frequent short phone calls and surprise drop-ins are a treat for both parties. Make a commitment to check-ins.
- Exercise: Walking is great. Perhaps a senior can combine exercising and socializing in the form of a walking club. If walking is not appropriate, pick an activity that is appropriate, and find friends with which to share. If not in person, on the phone.
- Social media: Despite all the bad publicity, social media can be a great way to fight isolation. Social media can be a great tool to stay in touch with children, grandchildren, old friends, and even church groups.
PEOPLE ALSO ASK
What does aging in place actually mean?
Aging in place is when a person lives and ages in their residence of choice, for as long as they are able to. Aging in place includes having services, care and needed support in the residence as well. These needs may change over time and as the individual ages
What does aging in place mean for older adults?
Aging in place enables older adults to maintain their emotional connection to their homes, neighborhoods, and people in their communities. All of these factors contribute to how a person perceives their personal identity, so older adults may feel that they can more comfortably be themselves by aging in place.
About The Author
Richard Elliott observers the world of senior citizens from the inside out. The sad truth is that he is well-ensconced in the senior citizen years. No matter what criteria you use, he has been a member of that "not-so-exclusive" club for over a decade...and counting. He is a veteran of almost a half-century in media. He’s owned and operated radio stations and even a weekly newspaper. He even remembers when mainstream media still at least gave the pretense of being objective and unbiased.
Solo seniors may have a harder time enjoying life. Non-driving seniors may become introverted and isolated. Additionally, a senior living alone may not get emergency medical care. Essentially, as long as the 80-year-old has access to help and socialization and can take care of their own needs, they can live alone.When should seniors not live alone? ›
Here are some signs the your parent should not be living alone: They require help with activities of daily living (ADLs) They have experienced a significant weight loss recently. They suffer from a memory loss condition such as Alzheimer's disease.What are the dangers of isolation for seniors? ›
Evidence reveals that social isolation and loneliness hinder good health—putting older adults at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and even death.What are the effects of elderly living alone? ›
People who live alone are more likely to be poor, and poverty is increasingly more likely the longer they live alone. Many older people who live alone say they feel lonely and isolated. Because eating is a social activity for most people, some older people who live alone do not prepare full, balanced meals.Can a 70 year old live alone? ›
Seniors living alone is more common than many might realize, especially in the United States. According to a recent study done by the Pew Research Center, 12 million seniors over the age of 65 live alone. Reasons seniors are living alone at 70 years old and beyond vary, but tend to be due to: Choosing to age in place.At what age do most seniors need care? ›
Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years. Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years) One-third of today's 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years.What percentage of 80 year olds live alone? ›
With age, however, the share of solo households increases, reaching 58 percent among those 80 and over.What happens to a human when they spend too much time alone? ›
Loneliness raises levels of stress hormones and blood pressure. It undermines regulation of the circulatory system so that the heart muscle works harder and the blood vessels are subject to damage by blood flow turbulence.Does isolation lower life expectancy? ›
Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person's life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes per day.What are 3 physical effects of loneliness? ›
If you've experienced ongoing feelings of loneliness, it can have negative effects on your physical health. It could lead to weight gain, sleep deprivation, poor heart health, and a weakened immune system. Loneliness can also put your body under more stress than normal.
When an elderly person has no one to take care of them, they may opt to take care of themselves and continue living in their own home. Programs for seniors without family are available, as are nursing homes and assisted living.What percentage of seniors live alone? ›
Nearly one-third of all seniors live by themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's close to 14 million seniors aging alone. Senior isolation is both common and dangerous, and while living alone doesn't inevitably lead to senior loneliness, the two often go hand in hand.Does living alone affect health? ›
Living alone has been linked to poor mental health, however large-scale epidemiological studies on the association between living alone and psychiatric morbidity including depression and anxiety are lacking.How can I be happy alone at 70? ›
- Take a walk to get some exercise. Being physically active is good for your mind as well as your body. ...
- Think about getting a pet. A dog or cat is not a replacement for humans, but they can be very good company, especially when you are feeling down.
- Get some sleep. ...
- Try something new. ...
- Connect with people.
Consider the Average Life Expectancy
And if she makes it to age 70, her life expectancy increases to 87.6 years. A man the same age has an average life expectancy of 84.1 years.
This article outlines the top causes of death for adults over the age of 65, starting with the number one cause: heart disease. Using disease prevention strategies, such as eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight, can help you avoid or reduce the impact of some these conditions.What are 3 conditions in the elderly? ›
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Dementia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. Diabetes. Osteoporosis.What is the senior stimulus program? ›
Stimulus Checks for Senior citizens
Inside this petition, there is help with checks for people over 60 for up to $1,400. More than 15 million senior citizens will be eligible for these new stimulus checks.
The average life expectancy in the United States is 9.1 years for 80-year-old white women and 7.0 years for 80-year-old white men. Conclusions: For people 80 years old or older, life expectancy is greater in the United States than it is in Sweden, France, England, and Japan.Where do most older people prefer to live? ›
Many older adults, of course, do move to planned senior housing—communities for “active seniors, ” independent living, assisted living, nursing homes, or continuing care communities that combine all of the above. Some sit behind walls and guardhouses.
- Speak up. Talk about your choices with your friends and family members, it is a discussion that needs to be had so stop waiting for it to go away, or magically resolve itself. ...
- Act early. ...
- Make new friends and keep the old. ...
- Appoint a proxy. ...
- Live well.
Poor social skills often lead to stress and loneliness, which can negatively affect physical as well as mental health.Is it OK to be completely alone? ›
No matter what you're feeling — excitement, stress, or anything in between— it's normal to have some nervousness, too. But you can absolutely live alone, safely, without feeling alone in the world. Here are some pointers to help you embrace your newfound solitude and find fulfillment in living solo.What happens if you are alone everyday? ›
Feeling lonely can also have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Some research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.What does loneliness do to the brain? ›
"Loneliness can change the neurochemistry of the brain, turning off the dopamine neurons, which trigger the reward response, and causing some degeneration in the brain when the reward response is not activated," says Katherine Peters, MD, PhD, FAAN, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Duke University.How damaging is isolation? ›
Health Risks of Loneliness
Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia. Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
It is clear that the chronic experience of social isolation escalates the risk of depression and dementias, as well as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer6,7,8.How can you tell if someone is lonely? ›
- Inability to connect with others on a deeper, more intimate level. ...
- No close or "best" friends. ...
- Overwhelming feeling of isolation regardless of where you are and who's around. ...
- Negative feelings of self-doubt and self-worth.
- Start a conversation. It's not always easy to know who or how to help. ...
- Offer practical help. ...
- Share your time. ...
- Help with household tasks. ...
- Share a meal. ...
- Watch out for signs of winter illness. ...
- Useful resources.
There have been several studies that have identified a range of factors associated with being lonely in older age. These factors include: social networks (living alone, being widowed or divorced, a lack of contact with friends and family and limited opportunities to participate in social occasions)
- Social Support. If the hospital determines a patient requires 24-hour supervision, they may not have assurances that such care will be available at the patient's home. ...
- Geography. ...
- Race/Culture. ...
- The Disease Itself.
There are many local and nationwide organizations that offer companionship programs for seniors without a family. You should contact your local senior center for a referral. You can also reach out to organizations like the Americorps.Who is responsible for taking care of an elderly person who Cannot care for themselves? ›
Filial Responsibility Laws were put in place to ensure the elderly are taken care of once they are incapable of taking care of themselves. When elderly individuals cannot take care of themselves, the responsibility falls on the child to take care of them.How many 75 year olds are still working? ›
The rate of employment for Americans aged 75 or older is at its highest level since 2009. From 2015 to 2019, 6.8% of Americans 75 or older were in the workforce, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.How many 80 year olds live to 90? ›
If you are an 80 year old man, your long-term odds are not great. There is a 30% chance of making it to your 90th birthday, and only about 14 in 1,000 will see 100. 70 year olds have a somewhat better prognosis.How many seniors have no family? ›
In Carney's pioneer research, she found that 22 percent of Americans 65 years and above are aging alone and lacking family or support that would take care of them. A majority of them are women.What is a disadvantage of living alone? ›
Loneliness or Boredom May Strike
Feeling lonely or isolated is one of the biggest drawbacks to a solo living situation. While it may be nice to return to a quiet, empty home after a vacation or at the end of the day, it can be lonely when you're the only person home 24/7.
Children left unsupervised often exhibit higher levels of fear, stress, loneliness and boredom. They are also at a greater risk to be involved in accidents and to be victimized by strangers, siblings, and friends. Children left home alone may also be more vulnerable to sexual abuse due to their easier access.Is living alone more peaceful? ›
Living alone can be very peaceful because there are no disagreements. When you live alone you don't have to compromise to fit in with someone else. No-one else's choices or biases come into play. You don't need to fit into anyone else's timetable.Is it difficult to live alone in old age? ›
It seems like everyone talks about fall risks and other physical dangers of seniors living alone. But living alone can be just as much of a threat to mental health as to physical. Many seniors living alone find that engaging in their community is difficult. And as a result, many develop serious mental health disorders.
Volunteer in your community or at your favorite charity organization. Visit a senior citizen center and participate in social groups and other scheduled activities. Join a group focused on a topic or activity you enjoy, such as card games or a book club. Take a class.What is the most common cause of death after 70? ›
The major cause of death in the 55-64 age group is cancer followed by heart disease and injury. In the 75+ age group, the leading cause shifts to heart disease, and injury drops below Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cerebrovascular diseases, and pneumonia.What is the average age of death from old age? ›
|Country||Life expectancy males||Life expectancy females|
|Croatia||74.7 years||80.9 years|
|Uruguay||74.7 years||81.9 years|
|Albania||74.6 years||79.7 years|
|United States||74.5 years||80.2 years|
New study says decline begins in our 50s
By the time you reach your 50s, your strength, balance and endurance are already beginning to wane — much earlier than previously thought, according to a new study.
Research has shown that chronic social isolation increases the risk of mental health issues like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, as well as chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It also raises the risk of dementia in older adults.What are the negative effects of social isolation? ›
Hawkley points to evidence linking perceived social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.What are the risks of isolation precautions? ›
Studies have reported negative psychological effects of isolation including feelings of loneliness, stigmatization, and increased depression and anxiety.What problem is related to social isolation of older adults? ›
Being alone may leave older adults more vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, which can affect their health and well-being. Studies show that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher risks for health problems such as heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline.What isolation does to the brain? ›
It is clear that the chronic experience of social isolation escalates the risk of depression and dementias, as well as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer6,7,8.How does self isolation affect the brain? ›
Socially isolated people have an increased risk of cognitive decline such as impaired concentration, memory loss, dementia, and loss of social capacities. They also suffer adverse emotional consequences such as depression, stress, and anxiety. They also feel sick more often and have a shorter lifespan.
Socially isolated older adults have a 27% higher chance of developing dementia, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins. The findings suggest that simple interventions could be meaningful.What does extreme loneliness feel like? ›
It's characterized by constant and unrelenting feelings of being alone, separated or divided from others, and an inability to connect on a deeper level. It can also be accompanied by deeply rooted feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, or social anxiety.Why social isolation is worse than loneliness? ›
Loneliness and social isolation are often correlated, but they are not one and the same. Loneliness is a subjective feeling. Social isolation is an objective condition. Research suggests that social isolation is a greater risk factor for health than loneliness.What are the five major isolation precautions? ›
- A. Standard Precautions. ...
- B. Transmission-Based Precautions. ...
- C. Syndromic and Empiric Applications of Transmission-Based Precautions. ...
- D. Discontinuation of Transmission-Based Precautions. ...
- E. Application of Transmission-Based Precautions in Ambulatory and Home Care Settings. ...
- F. Protective Environment.
Diseases requiring airborne precautions include, but are not limited to: Measles, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Varicella (chickenpox), and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Airborne precautions apply to patients known or suspected to be infected with microorganisms transmitted by airborne droplet nuclei.What precaution should you take for someone in an isolation room? ›
Put on a gown and then gloves if you're helping with patient care (if not you don't need these). Tie the gown at your neck and waist, and put the cuffs of the gloves over the cuffs of the gown. Enter the patient's room. You can leave the door open or close it.Why do older people become isolated? ›
People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older or weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, the deaths of spouses and friends, or through disability or illness.Why do older people isolate? ›
The loneliness and social isolation that seniors experience is usually caused by low-quality social relationships, or a lack of these relationships entirely. However, there are many other things that could cause these issues, such as being age 80 or older, having chronic health problems, and changing family structures.How do lonely people behave? ›
When someone feels lonely they are more likely to try to distract themselves with the other things in their lives. So if your colleague is always talking about their stamp collection, or always flying away on exotic solo city breaks rather than spending weekends at home, they might be feeling alone.