All the Lonely People: National Poll Finds Many Older Adults Feel Isolated
Older adults can find themselves feel a bit more isolated from the rest of their families.
Once upon a time, “families” meant multiple generations under one roof. In order to visit grandma, a youngster only needed to go upstairs, downstairs, or across the hall.
Many people raising kids today in nuclear or non-traditional families might find this hard to believe. But the shift from intergenerational households to age-segregated living evolved within the last century.
As longevity expert Marc Freedman explains in his latest book, How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations, our current “age apartheid” began with the best of intentions. Ben Schleifer, observing the “lifeless existence” of an elderly friend confined to a nursing home, developed plans for a modestly priced senior community that would offer connection and acceptance — and serve as an antidote to the loneliness and boredom of his friend’s final years.
When Youngtown opened outside Phoenix in 1955, it was an immediate hit. Then developer Del Webb co-opted the concept with the much more ambitious Sun City, building senior living communities across the country with miles of golf courses and redefining what it means to grow old in America. Webb coined the much-ballyhooed phrase, “the golden years.”
Isolated In Old Age
Except that age segregation continued to breed the very condition it was designed to cure: loneliness, which the U.S. surgeon general determined is as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In fact, a new University of Michigan poll reveals that one in four adults aged 50-80 feels isolated at least some of the time, and a third say they lack regular companionship. These findings correspond to myriad health issues, ranging from memory loss to premature death.
Shockingly, more than 25 percent of poll respondents say they have only one social contact or less per week with someone outside their home. For seniors who live alone, it’s easy to see how the effects of such social isolation can be detrimental.
In mastering life extension, we’ve often neglected to add meaning, Freedman points out. Yet President Kennedy recognized the vast untapped potential of older Americans, just as the senior living boon began. In 1963, he told Congress, “It is not enough for a great nation merely to have added new years to life; our objective must also be to add new life to those years.”
Kennedy decried the loneliness and disconnection those 60-plus often face, and the “wall of inertia” between older people and their communities. Very much a visionary for his era and age (just 46), he outlined a comprehensive National Service Corps that would provide opportunities for older adults to utilize their skills and experience in programs to help at-risk youth, declaring it would be “an ideal outlet for those whose energy, idealism, and ability did not suddenly end in retirement.”
Community, Connection, and Companionship
While President Kennedy’s impressive proposal unfortunately never materialized due to his untimely death, Freedman describes numerous “innovators, integrators and infiltrators” who are finding creative ways to tap elder wisdom and energy in mutually beneficial cross-generational programs and activities worldwide.
One such positive development is senior living communities that provide a strong life enrichment focus. At The Kensington Redondo Beach, for example, we believe a pivotal aspect of aging healthfully is staying active, building and maintaining friendships — not just among other seniors, but across the life spectrum.
As our name implies, our beautiful new campus is located just steps from the Pacific Ocean, in a seaside town brimming with outdoor cafés, movie theatres, boutiques, and all manner of fun-in-the-sun activities. A senior need only step outside to be immersed in its lively beach culture.
Our premier location is only the beginning, however. To help foster our residents’ integration within the wider community, we schedule outings several days each week, and maintain a full calendar of activities. A full-time Life Enrichment Manager and Activity Coordinators keep our seniors’ schedules as full as they wish them to be, encouraging participation while also supporting independence. This high level of engagement also improves long-term wellness.
Forest is another advantage of living at The Kensington Redondo Beach. Pet therapy is a proven panacea for loneliness and social isolation, and our four-footed staffer, whose official title is “The Kensington’s Best Friend,” does his part to ensure our residents feel loved and connected.
Being willing to reach out is also key. Freedman relates one story of a retired minister in his eighties who moved to a senior living community, but instead of retreating behind the gates, took an interest in “the kids living just outside our fence.” He and more than one hundred fellow residents created a program to serve as after school mentors for eight-to-ten-year-olds, and welcome the children to share dinner with them at the senior community each week.
Why Connection is Crucial for Assisted Living and Memory Care
While aging brings many joys, such as the gifts of experience and equanimity, it also entails losses. A senior couple may decide to move into an assisted living community, anticipating this exciting new journey — but life often interrupts the best-laid plans.
If a couple relocates and one half of the pair subsequently needs more care, or passes away, the community is here to support you.
Caring for a spouse with memory loss can be challenging even for the most loving husband or wife. This is when an enhanced aging in place community such as The Kensington Redondo Beach can prove invaluable.
We specialize in customized care that emphasizes independence and self-sufficiency as much as possible, whether your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of memory loss. While we’re always ready to assist as needed, we strive to ensure each resident has the ability to live as independently as possible.
We know there are still many beautiful moments ahead for someone with memory loss — or other health conditions. Our goal is to help residents and family alike to treasure these moments and get the most from them, all while providing a safe, enriching, and peaceful home for your loved one.
We invite you and your loved one to visit The Kensington Redondo Beach soon, and discover the possibilities awaiting them in the next phase of their life adventure.