The Real Health Dangers of Loneliness to Seniors

Dangers of loneliness

When it comes to healthy aging, quite honestly, there’s a lot to do. You’re supposed to make sure to keep your body active and your brain engaged all while maintaining your social connections as well. Sure, the benefits to your overall well-being are worth the effort, but retirement is supposed to be a time with less responsibility on your plate, right? Well, it turns out that in senior living you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here’s how programs like our Vivid Life make keeping active, engaged, and connected easy and fun! 

Benefits of Healthy Aging 

Good things happen when you focus on healthy aging. In addition to feeling better overall, which in and of itself is a win, other benefits of keeping active, engaged, and connected include:  

  • Improved ability to do everyday things ​ 
  • Reduced impact of illness and chronic disease​ 
  • Enhanced mobility, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy level
  • Reduced feelings of depression and stress
  • Increased feelings of happiness and self-confidence
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline 
  • Increased mental adaptability and cognitive reserve 
  • Improved memory recall and problem-solving skills 
  • Improved concentration and attention to detail  

How Senior Living Can Help 

At home, particularly when living alone, it can be hard to stay as active, engaged, and connected as you’d like. From lack of opportunity to lack of motivation to lack of transportation to mobility challenges, and more, it’s tough, we get it! That’s why we created the Vivid Life program in our senior living communities. It’s composed of three parts: Vibrant Body, Vibrant Brain, and Vibrant Connections. Here’s what each entails:  

Vibrant Body We offer amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, walking trails, gardening opportunities, and even a dog park to help you stay active. A sample of activities includes:  

  • Walking club – Daily walks at different outdoor locations using pedometers to measure steps. 
  • Yoga – At least once per week for gentle yoga, and once per week for mindful breathing. 
  • Fitness classes – At least two times per week using a variety of hand weights, resistance bands, and circuit-type exercises. 
  • Tai Chi – At least once per week with a live instructor. 
  • Non-traditional exercise – Dancing, gardening, etc. at least two times per week. 
  • Physical games and sports – Golf, putting, bowling, croquet, bocce, and ping pong available daily with organized events one to two times per week. 

Vibrant Brain We offer monthly calendars filled with classes, events, creative arts, and enrichment opportunities to help keep you engaged. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Visiting lecture series – Twice per month with topics such as cultural, historical, local interest, career-oriented, etc. 
  • Creative art series – At least one per week with a theme that runs 3-6 weeks, such as poetry writing, storytelling, painting, digital photography, etc. 
  • Learning series – At least three times per month with an emphasis on learning something new such as foreign language, sign language, technology, hobbies, etc. 
  • Games – At least one time per week and may include poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc. 
  • Mindfulness – A meditation class once per week and gratitude discussion group twice monthly. 
  • Church service – At least once a week through visits by local churches. 
  • Stress reduction – At least once per month class that offers deep breathing exercises, nature walks, music appreciation, spa-type treatments, etc. 

 Vibrant Connections We offer resident-led clubs, social events, outings and volunteer opportunities for any interest to help you stay connected. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Outings – At least twice per month and may include going to concerts, art shows, museum visits, theatre productions, etc. 
  • Intergenerational programming – At least once per month and focuses on building relationships between young adults/children and residents. 
  • New resident welcome party – At least once per month to formally introduce all new residents, and includes ice breakers, social games, etc. to encourage connection. 
  • Philanthropic program – At least once per month provide residents the opportunity to give back to the community, such as volunteering for a local food bank or pet shelter. 
  • Resident-led clubs – May include game clubs, professional clubs, common interests, etc. that meet at least monthly.  

What’s more, it’s all right outside your door (or transportation is provided offsite) and all in a supportive environment with home maintenance, housekeeping, and restaurant-style dining freeing your time to make it even easier to stay active, engaged, and connected. 

Learn more about Vitality Living’s Vivid Life programs. Or find a Vitality Living community near you today to schedule a tour. 



You may initially rank loneliness low on the list of concerns as your loved one ages, but the dangers are much more profound than you may think. In fact, what many suspect is simple loneliness is actually social isolation which the AARP Foundation is calling: a growing health epidemic among seniors. Learn more about the dangers of loneliness and social isolation, as well as how you help can reduce the risk for your loved one.

Loneliness and Social Isolation

While the AARP Foundation defines loneliness as the feeling or perception of being alone, social isolation differs in that it is quantifiable by the size of your social network and/or ability to access it. Specifically, senior isolation is being psychologically and/or physically detached from support groups of family, friends, and community- but, is it really that common? Yes! Social isolation affects nearly 1 in 5 seniors, according to AARP. Once you realize how much time seniors spend alone, you can understand why. The Pew Research Center reports that seniors who live by themselves, on average, spend about ten and a half hours alone each day. They found that more than a third (37%) of those seniors spend all their measured time alone; even those who live with someone- other than a spouse- have an average of seven and a half hours of alone time each day.

The Dangers of Loneliness

Certainly, everyone is lonely at times, but when it extends for a prolonged period and goes beyond feeling alone to having little to no social network (and/or infrequent engagement with the network you do have) can it become a danger to physical and mental health. In general terms, the AARP Foundation equates prolonged social isolation as being as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more harmful than obesity. But specific dangers of loneliness may include:
  • Greater risk for blood pressure
  • Greater risk for heart disease
  • Greater susceptibility to the flu and other infectious diseases
  • Earlier onset of dementia
  • Greater risk for anxiety and depression
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Signs of Social Isolation

What’s particularly concerning is that one factor driving social isolation is that those experiencing it are reluctant to ask for help. So, it’s important to proactively consider the risk factors. Aside from living alone, which we mentioned above, these factors can also put your loved one more at risk for social isolation:
  • Hearing and/or vision loss
  • Limited mobility
  • Lack of transportation or limited options
  • Caregiving for someone with a serious condition
  • Having a chronic health condition(s)
  • Having psychological or cognitive challenges
  • Going through a life transition such as retirement or the loss of a spouse
Other signs that a person might be socially isolated include:
  • Deep boredom, general lack of interest, and withdrawal
  • Losing interest in personal hygiene
  • Poor eating and nutrition
  • Significant disrepair, clutter, and hoarding in the home

What to Do About the Dangers of Loneliness

If you’re worried about the dangers of loneliness and/or social isolation for your loved one, there are ways to reduce the risk. First, reassure your loved one that you want to be there for them and that it’s not a burden to ask for help if they’re feeling isolated and/or alone. But be careful to avoid pushing a solution; rather, by asking them questions about what they are experiencing, and their needs and interests, your loved one will be more open to discussing their true feelings. You might find that there aren’t many opportunities for your loved one to stay socially connected while aging at home. If that’s the case, senior living might be a good fit. Senior living communities like ours offer a range of connection and enrichment opportunities right outside your door with options to fit just about any interest, such as classes, clubs, outings, socials, games, education, entertainment, and even special events. There are plenty of amenities to enjoy too, like beautiful grounds, restaurant-style dining, full-service salon, fitness center, and transportation. Not to mention the peace of mind that caring staff, neighbors and friends are always nearby. For more information, download our Stay or Go Guide today! Or contact us today to schedule a tour.
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