Loneliness is The Invisible Epidemic

The Importance of Social Connections on Health and Happiness

Elderly care facilities have faced tight restrictions since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. To limit infections and outbreaks, many facilities have faced lockdowns that restrict movement and social behaviour.

These facilities are meant to give elderly people a sense of community – not isolation. Since many of the social components of these facilities have been removed, residents no longer have as many opportunities to feel joy and connection. No more visitors, trips, activities or entertainers. Instead of being left in their rooms with nothing to do and nobody to talk to, seniors could benefit from having an opportunity to develop new social bonds.

The pandemic restrictions have also made it harder for seniors and the elderly living in their communities to socialize and stay connected. The majority of elderly persons in Canada are not in long term care facilities and are in need of companionship and social connection.

Health and Social Ties: Learn How they’re Connected

For seniors, staying socially connected is linked to various aspects of health, including those listed below.

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Blood pressure and stress are “significantly higher” for lonely seniors (University of Chicago)

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Loneliness is a risk factor for cognitive decline, and lonely adults face double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (Rush Institute for Healthy Aging)

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Isolation can reinforce harmful habits and coping mechanisms like smoking and drinking (American Psychiatric Association)

With strong social connections, elderly people can avoid these problems and take control of their health. Ultimately, social connection can help them live longer and happier lives.

Overcoming Isolation in Elderly Care

The demand for social connection in elderly care has never been higher. However, several factors make these connections more difficult to access.

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Technology Creates a Barrier

Many strategies against loneliness involve technology, such as video chat software. However, many seniors and elderly persons are not familiar with the digital tools required. They may normally rely on a family member or care facility staff for help with technology – but the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented visits, and facilities may not be equipped with the staff or devices to help all residents. CompanionLink works with seniors, care facilities, and support workers to enhance their access and understanding of technology and video chat software.

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Care Workers are Restricted and Overwhelmed

Primary caregivers, such as spouses, children, and medical professionals, are doing all they can to provide for those in need. This is difficult to do while ensuring the least amount of contact possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Getting Volunteers can be Difficult

There are many people who would be willing to lend a hand to help in the fight against isolation in elderly care facilities. However, volunteer recruitment can become quickly unorganized: online portals, lengthy forms, and weeks of back-and-forth can complicate the process.

Connection is the Cure for Loneliness

Elderly people in Canada need help now. The response to the sense of isolation in these communities has been small so far. Some organizations have launched projects that attempt to relieve elderly people of their loneliness, but these have been mostly hampered by restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite in-person volunteering being disallowed, these projects have seen positive outcomes. We believe efforts need to increase so that elderly people feel more happy and more connected.

Learn more about what CompanionLink is doing to keep elderly people in Canada feeling connected.