New Study Identifies Social Isolation in Seniors

We may be in a culture largely infatuated with the connectivity elements of social media and smartphones, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t those out there who feel like they’re always on the outside looking in.

For some seniors, roadblocks like physical ailments, location, financial standing and the mortality of friends and loved ones can significantly impact a person’s lifestyle. In certain cases, being faced with matters like these could lead to social isolation, a condition that sees individuals engage very little, if at all, with society.

In Singapore, a new study aimed at determining how social isolation impacts seniors was launched at the local residential centre, Marine Parade. Here, researchers from the SMU-TCS iCity Lab analyzed the behaviour 46 people aged 61-93 for an entire year.

During the course of the study, each individual’s home was fitted with sensors in the living room and on the front door. Researchers would then visit participants on a weekly basis to get a feel for their level of social and emotional loneliness.

Out of those studied, 15% showed signs of social isolation. Research discovered that this group of people spent two more hours at home and close to three hours more in their living rooms than the rest of those studied. What’s more, these individuals – on average – napped one hour more per day than the rest of the group.

“Social isolation puts [people] at risk of developing depression and could affect their sleep quality, cognition level and ability to perform their daily activities,” commented researcher Dr. Nadee Goonawardene on Singapore Management University (SMU).

Fortunately for those at Marine Parade, the results from this study helped social workers identify who was feeling disconnected from society. As a result, more targeted programs could be created to keep certain seniors better engaged.

-Adam Grant

On a recent episode of theZoomer, Host Marissa Semkiw and a panel of medical experts discuss the growing issue of social isolation among seniors.

You can watch that episode right here: