Investigators have defined several possible scenarios regarding the relationship between loneliness and health.
One suggests that loneliness is a cause -- perhaps preceding a decline in mental or physical health and actually contributing to problems in both of those areas.
The other options suggest that loneliness in seniors increases as a result of poor health.
This can be for several reasons including: *the increased impact of chronic conditions, *the absence of a significant caregiver, *or lack of important social contacts and connections.
Older people with health problems are, at times, less able (or sometimes less willing) to engage in social activities.
People without adequate social support can become less active, both physically and mentally.
The lack of mobility may also increase the opportunity for poor nutritional habits to take over.
None of these things helps to keep a small health problem small, do they? So, knowing that isolation and loneliness have the potential to influence the health and well-being of older people, what can a community (or an individual) do? Keeping in regular contact with older family members, friends and neighbors is certainly a good start.
In a mobile society, however, geography often presents a big challenge for families.
Community becomes even more important.
Local communities and groups can be sure to involve seniors at all levels of planning - especially for community events.
In addition to filling that ever-present 'volunteer void' they can also offer valuable perspective about scheduling, the need for transportation and affordability of leisure and educational activities.