It’s normal to feel lonely from time to time. But as you grow older, your risk of social isolation increases. According to a survey of more than 3,000 people conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons, more than one-third of older adults say they’re lonely.
That’s problematic because loneliness is linked to depression and may make it much harder for you to manage health problems, say Mary Bernstein, LMFT, and Diane Wilson, LMFT, of the Mills-Peninsula Medical Center behavioral health outpatient care team that offers special services for seniors.
“It’s not that simple to just go out and make new friends,” Bernstein says. Barriers that seniors encounter in making new social connections include:
- Transportation—“You may no longer be able to drive, and our environment almost requires an automobile to get around easily,” Bernstein says.
- Physical limitation—Pain or mobility issues may keep you at home.
- Poor vision or hearing—You may worry about misreading facial expressions or being unable to follow conversation in noisy places.
- Mental health issues—Someone battling depression or anxiety, for example, may be unable to leave home.
- Addiction—A senior who’s dependent on a pain medication, alcohol or other substances may avoid social interaction that could expose his or her addiction.
- Finances—If you’re on a fixed income, you may worry about social activities’ cost.